As the U.S. economy saw record-high job losses and unemployment last month, states such as Alaska, Arizona and Pennsylvania were taking major steps Friday to lift coronavirus restrictions.
There were more than 76,000 deaths and 1.27 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. on Friday, according to the John Hopkins University data dashboard. Worldwide, the virus has killed nearly 272,000 people and infected more than 3.9 million.
Here are some of the most important developments to know today:
Staffers for both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have recently tested positive. According to the April jobs report out Friday, 20.5 million jobs were lost last month, wiping out all of the nation’s job gains since the Great Recession of 2007-09. People in every state have become more active in recent weeks following a significant reduction in mobility that reached its lowest point in mid-April, a USA TODAY analysis of mobile phone use data shows.
For a positive outlook on the economy: Here are 5 reasons you shouldn’t freak out about the 20.5 million jobs lost last month.
What we’re talking about: The COVID-19 antibody treatment could be found in llamas, after all. Years ago, researchers found that a 4-year-old Belgian llama named Winter produced an antibody against other coronaviruses. Now, scientists are hoping llamas could help in this fight.
FDA approves first at-home saliva test for coronavirus
The Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved a test developed by Rutgers University that allows people to collect their own saliva and send to a lab for results, the university announced.
IT’s the first at-home saliva test that has been approved and allows for broader screening than through the standard method using nose and throat swabs.
Mike Pence staffer tests positive for coronavirus
An aide to Vice President Mike Pence has tested positive for coronavirus, the White House confirmed. Pence was traveling to Iowa to meet faith leaders to discuss reopening religious services to the public, but his plane was delayed and some staffers disembarked.
The news comes just one day after the White House announced Thursday that a military valet to President Donald Trump had tested positive for the virus. Trump told reporters that his aides will now be tested daily instead of weekly after the valet tested positive for the disease.
— Michael Collins
N95 mask sell-off hit record high in March as virus raged across US
U.S. companies sold a record $83.1 million in N95 respirator masks in March to other countries, a 10-year high that came at the same time the coronavirus was racing across the nation leaving many first-responders and doctors without the protective equipment, according to a USA TODAY analysis of U.S. Census Bureau trade data.
March’s total export figure surpassed the previous high of $74.3 million set in February, when many of the masks went to China. And it far exceeded the average monthly shipment value of $53.3 million over the past decade, USA TODAY’s analysis found.
The exports came even as top-level White House officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, were being warned that such shipments were hurting the country’s own supply, according to an 89-page whistleblower complaint released Tuesday from Dr. Rick Bright, the ousted U.S. Health and Human Services division director.
— Dian Zhang, Katie Wedell and Erin Mansfield
Seattle streets to permanently close to vehicles, stay open for exercise
At least 20 miles of Seattle streets closed to automobiles amid the state’s stay-at-home order will be permanently closed to vehicles. The areas will remain for residents to exercise outside, and the construction of bike infrastructure will be accelerated in 2020, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced.
The “Stay Healthy Streets” were expected to provide more room for people to recreate or exercise outdoors safely and offer an option for travel to essential services like grocery stores and small businesses open for pickup.
Women take on a greater share of parenting responsibilities under stay-at-home orders
The coronavirus crisis is putting unprecedented pressure on parents forced to spend more time at home while kids attend class from the living room. But the fallout isn’t equally split, according to a survey conducted by YouGov in partnership with USA TODAY and LinkedIn.
Women are taking on a greater share of parenting responsibilities during the home isolation and men tend to think they’re contributing more to the kids than they actually are, according to the recent survey of professionals age 18 to 74.
In most cases, the imbalance is an extension of what’s known as “invisible labor,” experts say, and the situation is being compounded during the pandemic.
– Paul Davidson
Economy lost 20.5M jobs in April
The U.S. economy lost 20.5 million jobs in April and the unemployment rate soared to 14.7% – both record highs – laying bare the starkest picture yet of the crippling gut punch delivered by the coronavirus pandemic.
In just a month, the historically dismal performance abruptly wiped out all of the nation’s job gains since the Great Recession of 2007-09.
Economists surveyed by Bloomberg forecast 22 million job losses and a 16% unemployment rate.
– Paul Davidson
Neiman Marcus, J. Crew: Retailers struggle to survive amid pandemic
Retailers that were already struggling before the coronavirus pandemic started are beginning to crumble.
Fashion chain J. Crew Group and luxury department store retailer Neiman Marcus Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the first week of May as they faced mounting losses with their stores temporarily closed. While both companies are planning to remain in business, bankruptcy poses the possibility of permanent store closings or outright liquidation as COVID-19 throttles sales.
J.C. Penney, which was facing declining sales and several years of losses heading into this crisis, is also considering filing for bankruptcy and company officials are hoping to avoid liquidation.
– Nathan Bomey
Americans worried about reopening too soon, survey shows
A new survey shows the majority of Americans are more worried about social distancing measures being loosened too quickly than they are about the country not reopening quickly enough.
Nearly 3 out of 4 Americans – 71% – say they are more concerned by the government lifting social distancing restrictions too quickly, according to a survey from the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape Project. That’s more than double the 29% who say they are worried restrictions are not being lifted quickly enough.
– Rebecca Morin
People are more active but remain cautious, mobile phone data
The nation’s disjointed approach to re-opening has revealed two Americas: One is populated by those eager to reclaim freedom of movement and restart the economy, and another by people whose COVID-19 concerns keep them sheltering in place. And often they’re living side by side in a country rocked by 1.2 million coronavirus cases and 75,000 deaths.
A USA TODAY analysis of mobile phone use data shows that people in every state have become more active in recent weeks following a significant reduction in mobility that reached its lowest point in mid-April.
But many Americans remain cautious. The data, which comes from location data company SafeGraph and is based on the recorded movements of 16 million anonymous phones, reveals the rebound is happening far more slowly than many states’ abrupt move to shelter in place, with U.S. mobility less than halfway back from its lowest level when compared to February.
– Marco della Cava, Dan Keemahill and Nick Penzenstadler
Officer uses ‘take-down’ maneuver on shopper who wasn’t wearing mask
A woman faces disorderly conduct charges after an altercation that began when a Walmart employee in Alabama asked her to wear a face mask in the store and ended with a police officer performing a “take-down” maneuver on her, officials said.
Video of the confrontation at a Birmingham Walmart circulated widely on social media. The video shows the officer picking the woman up and throwing her to the ground. It appears he was attempting to handcuff her.
States reopening: Alaska, Iowa, Arizona set to take significant steps on Friday
Friday will bring changes across several states — including Alaska, where bars, gyms, libraries and theaters will open again, and Iowa, where dental offices, campgrounds and drive-in theaters will reopen for business.
Meanwhile, Arizona will allow barbershops and salons to reopen with limited capacity and Pennsylvania will lift stay-at-home restrictions for nearly two dozen counties in the northern part of the state.
Coming Saturday, Nevada will allow restaurants, retail stores, barbershops and hair salons to open again.
US futures set for gains, Asian stocks advance after Wall Street surge
U.S. shares were set for gains Friday, with the future for the Dow industrials up 0.8% at 24,031.0. S&P 500 futures gained 0.8% to 2,903.12.
Asian shares surged on optimism that the worst of the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic may be over after Wall Street logged its biggest rally in a week.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 jumped 1.8%, South Korea’s Kospi jumped 1.3% and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.8%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was up 1% and the Shanghai Composite picked up 0.7%.
Buffet chain Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes to close permanently
The Southern California-based buffet chain restaurant Souplantation, known nationwide as Sweet Tomatoes, announced Thursday it will permanently close all 97 restaurants due to financial challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The FDA had previously put out recommendations that included discontinuing self-serve stations, like self-serve beverages in fast food, but they specifically talked about salad bars and buffets,” John Haywood, CEO of Garden Fresh Restaurants, the parent company of Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes, told The San Diego Union-Tribune.
The closure will affect 4,400 employees, the Union-Tribune reported. Souplantation was founded in 1978 in San Diego and began expanding nationally in 1990 under the name of Sweet Tomatoes.
African Americans, Latinos, tribal members in Wisconsin will get free testing
All African Americans, Latinos and tribal community members in Wisconsin will have access to free COVID-19 testing under a plan announced Thursday by Gov. Tony Evers. His plan is an effort to combat the staggering racial and ethnic disparities Wisconsin and many other states are facing when it comes to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
African Americans and Latinos account for half of all coronavirus cases in Wisconsin. Latinos make up less than 7% of the state’s population, but account for 29% of the COVID-19 cases. African Americans make up only about 6% of Wisconsin’s total population but account for 21% of the confirmed cases statewide.
“These disparities existed before this pandemic. But what we can do in this present circumstance is we have to, have to, have to test more people,” Evers said in an interview with the Journal Sentinel. “In order for us to do the best job possible serving the disadvantaged groups in this state who are disproportionately impacted by this virus, we have to test more.”
– Mary Spicuzza and Alison Dirr, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Frontier Airlines will have passenger temperature checks beginning in June
Travelers flying Frontier Airlines will have their temperature checked before boarding beginning June 1. The discount airline is the first U.S. carrier to announce the coronavirus safety measure and the second in North America after Air Canada.
“The health and safety of everyone flying Frontier is paramount and temperature screenings add an additional layer of protection for everyone onboard,” Frontier Airlines CEO Barry Biffle said in a statement late Thursday.
All airlines have called for increased health screening to help convince travelers it’s safe to fly again. Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly earlier this week said the Transportation Security Administration should add temperature scans at the security checkpoint. The TSA said no decisions have been made.
Biffle said Frontier believes the TSA should handle screenings and that the agency and airport authorities “may be working to lay that groundwork.” Until then, Frontier wants to do its own screenings of passengers. Employees will be subject to the same standard, Frontier said.
– Dawn Gilbertson
Gov. Gavin Newsom says coronavirus outbreak in California started in salon
On the day he issued guidelines for parts of California to start reopening, Gov. Gavin Newsom also identified a nail salon as the origin of the coronavirus outbreak in the state, one of the first ones in the nation to get impacted.
Newsom provided details of the requirements for counties to relax social distancing measures beginning Friday, when clothing stores, florists, sporting goods stores and bookstores will be among the retailers allowed to operate again, albeit through curbside pick-up service.
Asked why businesses that offer personal-care services like nail salons can’t open yet, Newsom said, “This whole thing started in the state of California, the first community spread, in a nail salon. I just wanted to remind you, remind everybody, of that. I’m very worried about that.’’
He did not elaborate about the time and place community spread began in the state.
TSA will require employees to wear facial protection at screening areas
The Transportation Security Administration on Thursday announced it will require employees to wear facial protection at security checkpoints, the latest move to heighten safety standards to protect against COVID-19.
The press release announcing the decision also encourages passengers to wear facial protection at screening areas as a way to combat the spread of coronavirus. As a health measure, many airlines, including American, United, Delta, Southwest, Alaska, Frontier, JetBlue and Spirit, have announced plans to make face masks mandatory for passengers.
The employee facial-protection requirement will be implemented in the coming days, according to a TSA press release, which describes the action as “an additional measure to help minimize spread of COVID-19 and help raise the overall health and safety level inside the airport environment.” Agency personnel will be provided with masks.
– Bill Keveney
Trump staff to be tested daily after aide comes down with virus
President Donald Trump said Thursday that his staff will be tested daily for coronavirus after a Navy steward who has been in close proximity to him tested positive for COVID-19. Both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were given new tests after the discovery, and administration officials said they came out negative.
Trump said he knows the personal valet but has had “very little contact” with him. Still, he said, aides who have been tested weekly for coronavirus will now be given the test daily. Officials would not say whether Trump himself will be tested daily.
– David Jackson and Michael Collins