Coronavirus live updates: 14% of 3,000 New Yorkers test positive; NFL draft puts sports back in spotlight

Results released Thursday from random testing of New Yorkers showed the coronavirus outbreak is widespread across the state. The NFL draft, albeit virtual, may bring a temporary distraction as it puts sports back in the spotlight after being benched by fears the teams and crowds would fuel the pandemic.

Starting Sunday, New York health officials randomly tested people at various stores and other locations across the state. The goal: Help understand who has built up immunity to the virus and where it is most prevalent. Extrapolated across the state’s population of almost 20 million people, the 13.9% rate of infection researchers found comes out to “about 2.7 million who have been infected,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

There will be little chance of infection this year at the NFL draft, which was originally scheduled to take place in Las Vegas but was forced to move online by the virus. Sports agent Leigh Steinberg noted that while the draft draws big crowds, traditionally only the top players attended the proceedings. “For more than 90, 95% of the players, it’s always been a virtual draft,” he said.

Also Thursday, the House will take up the legislation primarily aimed at providing assistance to small businesses suffering from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. More than 4.4 million Americans filed new unemployment claims last week alone, another in a string of weeks with huge new jobless numbers, the Labor Department reported. 

The Senate passed the measure Tuesday, the same day Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s brother, Donald Reed Herring, died from COVID-19. The virus has killed more than 187,000 people globally. More than 2.6 million confirmed cases have been reported, including over 856,000 in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University data. There are over 47,000 deaths reported in the U.S.

Almost 14% of 3,000 New Yorkers test positive 

Random testing of 3,000 New Yorkers revealed that 13.9% were infected with the coronavirus and developed an antibody, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday. Cuomo, who said the data was preliminary, said it’s thus likely that 2.7 million people in the state have been infected, with a death rate of 0.5%. The data was collected over two days in 19 counties and 40 localities across the state. Men tested positive at a higher rate than women, New York City residents at a higher rate, about 21%, than the rest of the state.

“These were people out and about,” Cuomo said. “They were infected, they had the antibody and are now recovered.” 

– Joseph Spector

Brother of Elizabeth Warren dies from coronavirus 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced her oldest brother, Donald Reed Herring, has died after being infected with the coronavirus. Warren, D-Mass., tweeted that Herring, 86, a Vietnam veteran who joined the Air Force at 19, “was charming and funny, a natural leader.” The Boston Globe reported that Herring tested positive for the coronavirus about three weeks ago. He was taken to Norman Regional Hospital in Norman, Oklahoma, on April 15. He died six days later. Warren expressed gratitude to the nurses and other medical professionals who treated her brother. 

“But it’s hard to know that there was no family to hold his hand or to say ‘I love you’ one more time – and no funeral for those of us who loved him to hold each other close,” she said. “I’ll miss you dearly my brother.”  

– William Cummings 

House set to approve $484 billion stimulus redux

A popular small business loan program that ran out of money is about to get a cash infusion. The House is expected to give final approval Thursday to legislation that would pump $320 billion into the Paycheck Protection Program, which is designed to keep small businesses from shuttering and their workers from going on unemployment. The bill also provides about $75 billion for hospitals, $25 billion for testing and $60 billion for emergency disaster loans and grants. The Senate approved the bill Tuesday and President Donald Trump has said he will sign it.

– Michael Collins and Christal Hayes

NFL draft puts sports back in spotlight 

Remember when sports was a thing? Well, the pros take center stage for the first time in more than a month Thursday night when the National Football Leagues kicks off its collegiate draft. Virtually, but still. Absent from the first round of the league’s annual “player selection meeting” will be the thousands of fans normally drawn to the site for the first round. The second and third rounds are set for Friday, and the final four rounds will be completed Saturday. The Cincinnati Bengals get the first pick, hard-earned by their awful 2019 campaign, when they went 2-14. They are expected to take LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. 

Illinois announces modified stay-at-home order through May

Gov. JB Pritzker on Thursday announced that a modified version of Illinois’ stay-at-home order will go into effect May 1 and continue through the month.

“Illinois is now looking at peak or plateau of deaths per day somewhere between late April and early May,” Pritzker said. 

Pritzker said his office worked with universities, health departments and outside consulting groups to model the state’s cases and draft the modified order.

The modified order allows state parks to begin a phased re-opening; allows greenhouses, garden centers and nurseries to re-open as essential businesses; requires individuals to wear a face-covering or a mask when in a public place where they can’t maintain a six-foot social distance and more. 

Pritzker already canceled in-person classes for the rest of the school year.

More than 36,000 people have tested positive for the virus in Illinois, and more than 1,600 have died, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Most of those cases were in and around Chicago. About a third of the state’s ICU beds and two thirds of ventilators are available, according to the department.

“The projections are clear. If we lifted the stay-at-home order tomorrow, we would see our deaths per day shoot into the thousands by the end of May, and that would last well into the summer,” Pritzker said.

Cuomo shreds McConnell over ‘bankruptcy route’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s comment suggesting the federal government decline to bail out states facing bankruptcy was “one of the really dumb ideas of all time,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. McConnell was referencing pleas from state and local governments to secure federal funding for their coronavirus responses. 

“You want to see that market fall through the cellar?” Cuomo continued. “Let New York State declare bankruptcy. … You will see a collapse of this national economy, just dumb.”

– Lorenzo Reyes

Unemployment claims continue to smash records

More than 26 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits over the past five weeks, a record-breaking number revealing the devastating toll the coronavirus pandemic has taken on the economy. About 4.4 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, the Labor Department said Thursday. That would have been a record less than two months ago. Economists had estimated 4.5 million claims, lower than the roughly 5.2 million filed the week before, and down from the all-time high of 6.86 million applications filed in late March. 

“Claims have declined over the past two weeks but remain at an extraordinarily high level,” analysts for the research consultancy High Frequency Economics wrote.

– Charisse Jones 

Protesters say issue is economic, not political

Many protesters challenging restrictions in their states fiercely resist a growing narrative that they are aligned with or funded by national groups, gun rights organizations or entities supporting President Donald Trump’s reelection. The protests, focused on rolling back stay-at-home orders, snarled traffic in Michigan, blocking a hospital entrance. Thousands of cheering, flag-waving drivers cruised around Pennsylvania. Some demonstrations feature Trump campaign flags, but homemade signs – one in Tennessee encouraged Americans to “fear your government,” not the coronavirus – are more prevalent.

“I was listening to all these concerns, and I was sick of not doing anything about it,” said Madison Elmer, who organized a Wisconsin protest. “There are people suffering on both sides of this.”

– John Fritze, Joey Garrison and David Jackson 

Fauci, Trump clash over ‘second wave’ of COVID-19

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appeared to contradict President Donald Trump’s notion that the coronavirus may not reappear in the fall. Trump, at a White House briefing Wednesday, downplayed a warning from the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that a second wave of the coronavirus outbreak could create more challenges than the current situation because it would come at the opening of flu season.

“It may not come back at all,” Trump said. “He’s talking about a worst-case scenario.”

Fauci countered with a less optimistic view: “We will have coronavirus in the fall. I am convinced of that because of the degree of transmissibility that it has, the global nature.”

– Savannah Behrmann 

Stocks gain as oil prices rally 

U.S. stocks charged higher Thursday, following up on big gains Wednesday, when the S&P 500 rose 2.3% to 2,799.31. Europe and Asia also saw gains. Treasury yields inched higher in another sign of a slight easing of pessimism in the market. There was good news Thursday for oil companies: Oil prices, which have collapsed due to the economic shutdown, showed signs of a rally Thursday. 

Ramadan traditions challenged by virus

Islam’s holiest month begins Friday, but social distancing concerns could alter Ramadan traditions for the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims. The month normally features daytime fasting, overnight festivity and communal prayer. Keeping the faithful healthy during the month poses a whole new challenge these days. The virus has already disrupted Christianity’s Holy Week, Passover, the Muslim hajj pilgrimage and other major religious events.

“Ramadan is coming, and people have nothing to eat,” said Afghan daily laborer Hamayoon, who goes by only one name. “The government must have some mercy on us and allow people to work at least half a day to be able to feed themselves.”

More scorn on Las Vegas mayor

Criticism continues to rain down on Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, and this time it’s coming from within. Goodman has been widely scorned for her desire to reopen casinos, hotels and restaurants amid the pandemic without a plan to stop spread of the virus.

Nevada’s most influential labor union on Thursday condemned Goodman after she offered on national TV to have Las Vegas reopen as a “control group” to test how COVID-19 behaves when the shutdown ends.  

“The Mayor of Las Vegas’ statements are outrageous considering essential frontline workers have been dealing with the consequences of this crisis firsthand,” Culinary Union Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Argüello-Kline said in a statement.  

— Ed Komenda, Reno Gazette Journal 

Hot Pockets heiress wants to serve prison time at home

An heir to the Hot Pockets fortune facing five months in prison in the college admissions bribery scheme asked a judge to allow her to serve her punishment at home because of the coronavirus pandemic. Lawyers for Michelle Janavs said in a legal filing that she has a publicly undisclosed health condition that makes her vulnerable to COVID-19. 

Janavs admitted to paying the consultant Rick Singer $100,000 to have a proctor correct her two daughters’ ACT exam answers. She also agreed to pay $200,000 to have one of her daughters “recruited” for beach volleyball at the University of Southern California, prosecutors said.