Coronavirus live updates: Trump wants to ‘open up’ country by Easter; stocks roar higher; US deaths reach 600

The nation absorbed its 600th coronavirus death Tuesday as stocks roared higher, the Summer Olympics were delayed, and President Donald Trump said he hoped to “open up” the nation by Easter.

“Our country has to get back to work,” Trump said. “Otherwise it’s going to be very hard to start it up again.”

In Congress, leaders on both sides of the aisle said a stimulus deal was near.

The U.S. death toll reached 600 hours after growing by more than 100 in a 24-hour period. As of Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. had more than 49,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, trailing only Italy and China. New York state, now testing more than 16,000 people daily, has more than half the U.S. cases.

Experts say confirmed cases reflect how much testing is done, and as the U.S. gets more tests, more confirmed cases are expected.

Across the world, more than 18,000 people have been killed by the virus and more than 400,000 infections have been confirmed, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.  

Trump wants country ‘raring to go by Easter’

President Donald Trump said he hopes the country can return to relative normalcy by Easter, April 12. Trump, in a virtual town hall on Fox News, said people can go back to work and still practice social distancing, wash their hands frequently and take other precautions. The flu kills tens of thousand of Americans each year, but the nation does not shut down for it, he added.

“We are opening up this incredible country because we have to do that,” Trump said. “I’d love to have the country opened up and raring to go by Easter.” 

Gov. Cuomo: NY hospitals could be overwhelmed within 2 weeks 

New York state could be just two weeks away from seeing 40,000 patients requiring intensive care in facilities equipped for only 3,000, Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned. Cuomo, at his daily news conference, said the infection rate in New York is doubling about every three days and that daily infection numbers could peak next month. His state is home to almost half of the nation’s infections, although New York tests an estimated 16,000 people each day, far more than other states. 

Cuomo said his state has the fastest rate of infection but said California, Washington state, Illinois and other states should take heed because “we are your future.” 

“We are not slowing it. And it is accelerating on its own,” he said during a briefing in New York City. “We are now looking at a bullet train.” 

McConnell: ‘We are on the 5-yard line’ for deal

Agreement on a trillion-dollar stimulus package that includes $1,200 checks to most Americans could be reached within hours, leaders from both parties said. 

“I believe we are on the 5-yard line,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor. “We are very close.”

Speaking on CNBC, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: “There is real optimism that we could get something done (within) hours.” GOP-crafted plans have failed to gain traction with many Democrats, stalling efforts at a deal. But Pelosi said progress has been made on funds targeted for corporations and other entities. “Overarchingly, we are getting into a good place,” she said of the talks. 

Trump to use Defense Production Act for test kits, masks

The Trump administration is expected to officially trigger the Defense Production Act for the first time on Tuesday to obtain about 60,000 coronavirus test kits to help health care workers confront a widespread shortage of medical supplies amid the unfolding crisis.

FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor told CNN his team planned to “use the DPA for the first time today,” adding that the administration would also insert “DPA language” into mass contracts for 500 million masks. The Korean War-era law allows President Donald Trump to address the shortage of medical supplies by directing private companies to expedite production of medical equipment. Trump invoked the DPA last week but has resisted calls from governors and other officials to actually enforce it.  

The president weighed in on using the law Tuesday morning, tweeting that the DPA was “in full force, but haven’t had to use it because no one has said NO! Millions of masks coming back up to States.” 

– Courtney Subramanian

Japan says Summer Olympics delayed to 2021

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach have agreed to postpone the 2020 Summer Olympics. According to a tweet from the Japanese Prime Minister’s Office, the two agreed that the Games will not be canceled and “will be held by the summer of 2021.” It is the first time in modern Olympic history that a global health issue has disrupted the Games. 

– Tom Schad

Stock market opens with big gains

Stocks rocketed higher at the start of trading Tuesday on hopes that Congress would pass a stimulus bill to shield the economy from the coronavirus pandemic. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied more than 1,500 points and Standard & Poor’s 500 also jumped.

Congress reportedly was nearing a rescue plan that could inject $2 trillion into the economy. The measure is designed to provide direct payments of $1,200 to most Americans and another $500 for children, help small businesses shuttered across the country and aid the hard-hit travel industry. 

– Jessica Menton

India’s 1.3 billion people face ‘total lockdown’ for 3 weeks

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a “total lockdown” in the country of 1.3 billion people for three weeks “to save India.” Failure to properly manage the next 21 days could set the country back by 21 years, he said. He noted that Italy and the U.S., where health care is among the best in the world, were struggling to mitigate the effects of the virus. Indian health officials have reported more than 500 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 10 deaths.

“Remember, where there is life, there is hope,” he said.

85% of new COVID cases in US, Europe 

Worldwide totals for deaths and infections from coronavirus are expected to increase considerably when the latest numbers are released later Tuesday.

WHO spokeswoman Dr. Margaret Harris said overnight reporting showed 85% of the new cases are being reported in Europe and the United States. On Monday, WHO counted more than 334,000 total cases globally. Harris said the outbreak is accelerating rapidly and the case numbers obtained overnight “will put that up considerably.” The Hopkins dashboard had almost 400,000 early Tuesday.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it took 67 days from the first reported coronavirus case to reach 100,000. The next 100,000 took 11 days, the next 100,000 just four days. “The pandemic is accelerating,” Tedros said. “But we’re not prisoners to statistics. We’re not helpless bystanders. We can change the trajectory.”

Hopkins expert: Ending social distancing could cost millions of lives 

Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Center for Health Security of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, warned in a series of tweets that curbing social distancing could cost millions of lives. Inglesby said the U.S has been seeing exponential growth and that health officials are just beginning to understand how pervasive it is.

“Anyone advising the end of social distancing now, needs to fully understand what the country will look like if we do that,” he tweeted. “COVID would spread widely, rapidly, terribly, could kill potentially millions in the yr ahead with huge social and economic impact across the country.”

Virus might live on surfaces for more than 2 weeks 

A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report indicates the virus can live on surfaces for more than two weeks. The CDC found traces of COVID-19 on surfaces in the cabins of both symptomatic and asymptomatic infected passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship – 17 days after passengers had left the cabins. Of note, the cabins had yet to be disinfected. While the data doesn’t show if transmission occurred from surfaces, the CDC report recommends exploring that further. 

– David Olive 

Italy sees drop in deaths for second day in a row

The number of new confirmed cases and deaths in Italy fell for the second straight day on Monday, Emergency Commissioner and Civil Protection Chief Angelo Borrelli said. The death toll was 601, down from 651 on Sunday and 793 on Saturday. More than 60,000 Italians have been confirmed as infected and more than 6,000 have died. However, a report saying there may be 10 non-recorded coronavirus cases for every registered one in Italy is “credible,” Borelli told the ANSA news service.

Texas official ‘all in’ for risking life to keep economy sound 

The lieutenant governor of Texas wants the United States to go back to work, saying grandparents like him don’t want to sacrifice the country’s economy during the coronavirus crisis. Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, 69, made the comments on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” after President Donald Trump said he wanted to reopen the country for business in weeks, not months. Patrick said grandparents, considered most threatened by COVID-19 because of age, wouldn’t want to sacrifice their grandchildren’s economic future.  

“No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’” Patrick said. “And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in.”

– Adrianna Rodriguez 

In China, Hubei’s 2-month lockdown starts to ease 

The province in China where the coronavirus pandemic originated in December will lift travel restrictions on people leaving the region, China’s authorities said Tuesday. Hubei’s two-month lockdown ends at midnight, although people will only be able to leave the area if they are coronavirus-free and have been given a clean bill of health. 

Wuhan, Hubei’s provincial capital, will remain locked down until April 8.

China has gradually brought its coronavirus outbreak under control by aggressively isolating those infected, forcing millions to stay inside since Jan. 23 and canceling all but emergency travel in and out of Hubei. China’s National Health Commission’s said it has seen almost no new cases of the virus in Hubei for more than a week. However, other regions of China saw a doubling of new infections as imported cases of coronavirus have ticked higher in recent days. China on Tuesday reported 78 new coronavirus cases, among which 74 were imported, according to the National Health Commission. China has reported more than 81,000 cases since the outbreak began.

– Kim Hjelmgaard