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President Trump on Friday announced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone wear a simple, cloth face covering while out in public. The debate about whether the public should wear masks came after increasing evidence that infected people without symptoms can spread the coronavirus. Medical masks should still be reserved for health-care workers.

While making the announcement, Trump said it was “voluntary" and that that he is choosing not to do it, though “it may be good.”

Here are some significant developments:

  • The United States reported more than 32,000 confirmed cases Friday, bringing its total to more than 273,000. The U.S. death toll is over 7,000. More than 1 million confirmed cases have been reported around the world.
  • A Washington Post investigation uncovered alarm and dismay among scientists at health labs about the Trump administration’s reliance on a flawed coronavirus test developed by the CDC, which was used for weeks as the virus began to spread across the United States.
  • Trump intends to nominate White House lawyer Brian D. Miller to serve as the inspector general overseeing the Treasury Department’s implementation of the newly enacted $2 trillion coronavirus law, the White House said Friday night.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) continues to press the case for another federal stimulus bill. It would include more direct payments to individuals, additional small business loan funding and the extension of enhanced unemployment benefits.
  • Data suggests 75 percent of patients in China originally listed as asymptomatic go on to develop symptoms, a World Health Organization epidemiologist said. The Communist Party chief of Wuhan, the Chinese city where the outbreak began, said that the risk of a resurgence there remains high.
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) called for a national enlistment of health-care workers organized by the U.S. military, as statewide cases grew to more than 102,000 on Friday, with nearly 3,000 deaths.

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April 3, 2020 at 11:28 PM EDT

Retailers furloughed nearly 1 million workers this week. But the industry’s troubles are just beginning.

Mike Derse kept his two toy stores open as long as he could, but sometime in mid-March he realized he had no choice but to lay off his entire staff.

“We just didn’t have the cash to keep our employees on the payroll,” said Derse, who closed the two Learning Express franchises he owns with his wife three weeks ago. “ ‘Look, we’re sorry,’ ” he told the 30 workers. “ ‘We’ve had to make drastic changes.’ ”

Like countless other small-business owners living in suspended animation until the coronavirus crisis wears itself out, Derse is hoping to tap a massive federal stimulus program and take out a loan to get his workers back on the payroll as soon as his stores in Bedford, Mass., and Burlington, Mass., are allowed to reopen. But specifics have been murky, he says, and it’s been difficult to get a clear sense of how, or when, to apply for the pool of $349 billion in stimulus money that became available to small-business owners Friday.

Read more here.

By Abha Bhattarai
April 3, 2020 at 11:03 PM EDT

Trump suspends immigration laws and showcases vision for locked-down border

SAN ANTONIO — President Trump has used emergency powers during the coronavirus pandemic to implement the kind of strict enforcement regime at the U.S. southern border he has long wanted, suspending laws that protect minors and asylum seekers so that the U.S. government can immediately deport them or turn them away.

Citing the threat of “mass, uncontrolled cross-border movement,” the president has shelved safeguards intended to protect trafficking victims and persecuted groups, implementing an expulsion order that sends migrants of all ages back to Mexico in an average of 96 minutes. U.S. Border Patrol agents do not perform medical checks when they encounter people crossing into the country.

Read more here.

By Arelis Hernández and Nick Miroff
April 3, 2020 at 10:07 PM EDT

Trump announces intent to nominate White House lawyer Brian Miller as inspector general for $2 trillion coronavirus law

President Trump intends to nominate White House lawyer Brian D. Miller to serve as the inspector general overseeing the Treasury Department’s implementation of the newly enacted $2 trillion coronavirus law, the White House said Friday night.

If confirmed by the Senate, Miller would become the special inspector general for pandemic recovery for the Department of Treasury, a key post in preventing fraud and abuse in the enormous new program. Currently, Miller is a special assistant to Trump and senior associate counsel in the White House Office of Legal Counsel. He played a role in attempting to defend Trump during the recent impeachment probe in Congress.

Read more here.

By Jeff Stein
April 3, 2020 at 9:28 PM EDT

Trump Organization has laid off about 1,500 employees as pandemic hits business

The Trump Organization has laid off or furloughed about 1,500 employees at hotels in the United States and Canada as the coronavirus pandemic inflicts further pain on the president’s private business.

Seventeen of President Trump’s clubs and hotels have closed. The remainder of Trump’s properties are operating at a fraction of their normal capacity: hotels running with restaurants closed, golf clubs operating with clubhouses shut down, and golfers warned not to share carts or touch the flagsticks.

Read more here.

By Josh Partlow, Jonathan O'Connell and David Fahrenthold
April 3, 2020 at 9:03 PM EDT

Barr orders release of vulnerable federal inmates

Significant outbreaks of the novel coronavirus at three federal prisons have prompted Attorney General William P. Barr to order the release of vulnerable inmates to home confinement.

In a memorandum obtained by The Washington Post, Barr asked the Federal Bureau of Prisons to move elderly inmates and those with preexisting conditions from facilities in Danbury, Conn.; Oakdale, La., and Elkton, Ohio.

The Bureau of Prisons did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

Five deaths at Oakdale and two at Elkton have been attributed to the coronavirus. Danbury has reported nine cases but no deaths.

“I believe strongly we should do everything we can to protect the inmates in our care, but we must do so in a careful and individualized way that remains faithful to our duty to protect the public and the law enforcement officers who protect us all,” Barr wrote.

A stimulus bill known as the Cares Act, signed into law last week by President Trump, authorizes Barr to order such emergency releases.

Last week, Barr instructed the Bureau of Prisons to increase early releases for older inmates.

By Steven Goff and Matt Zapotosky
April 3, 2020 at 9:00 PM EDT

Report: Federal appeals court refuses to block absentee voting extension in Wisconsin

A federal appeals court on Friday declined to block extended absentee voting deadlines for Wisconsin’s presidential primary, the Associated Press reported — marking the latest, dramatic chapter in a state where voters have expressed confusion and trepidation about going to the polls.

Wisconsin’s state legislature made headlines by deciding to move forward with its presidential primary, even as concerns about coronavirus have spiked nationwide. More than 100 municipalities have not had enough poll workers to open a single voting location ahead of the April 7 presidential primary, The Washington Post previously reported. Moreover, thousands of voters may not receive their mall-ballot request on time.

Wisconsin is the only state out of 11 scheduled to hold primaries in April that has not postponed or dramatically altered voting.

The AP reports that Republicans asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit to stay a Thursday decision ordering absentee voting deadlines to extend six days beyond Election Day, to April 13. The federal appeals court did not cite a reason for refusing to stay the decision, according to the AP.

Democrats and voting activists have accused GOP lawmakers of trying to suppress voter turnout in the state to benefit a conservative candidate for the state Supreme Court. Republicans deny that, arguing they don’t want voters to be confused by a shift in Election Day deadlines.

By Michael Brice-Saddler
April 3, 2020 at 8:11 PM EDT

U.S. records 30,000 cases in 24 hours, death toll climbs above 7,000

Coronavirus-related deaths in the United States eclipsed 7,000 Friday evening, according to state health departments and tracking by The Washington Post. States also reported a combined 30,000 new cases in a day for the first time.

The grim metrics are emblematic of covid-19’s seemingly insuperable spread across the country, even as state and federal officials have encouraged stricter social distancing measures. The increased numbers are also representative of increased testing availability across the United States.

By Michael Brice-Saddler and Jacqueline Dupree
April 3, 2020 at 7:26 PM EDT

Trump says in-person general election should happen; claims without evidence that ‘a lot of people cheat’ with mail-in voting

Punctuating the White House task force briefing Friday, President Trump said adamantly that the general election would still take place Nov. 3, dismissing any suggestion of mail-in voting.

He was asked if mail-in voting should be an option if coronavirus was still present in the fall, something Anthony Fauci has said is possible, to prevent further spread as people cast their ballots in-person.

“I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting,” Trump said. “People should vote with ID, voter ID, I think voter ID is very important. The reason they don’t want voter ID is because they intend to cheat.”

Trump did not provide any evidence to back up his assertion and immediately ended Friday’s news conference after discussing the topic. He and his wife Melania Trump voted by absentee ballot in New York in the 2018 midterm elections.

“It shouldn’t be mail-in voting. It should be you go to booth and you proudly display yourself, you send it in the mail,” Trump added. “...all sorts of bad things can happen… by the time it gets in and is tabulated.”

By Michael Brice-Saddler
April 3, 2020 at 6:46 PM EDT

Hospitals will be paid for treating uninsured coronavirus patients, Trump says

President Trump announced Friday that hospitals will be reimbursed for treating uninsured covid-19 patients, using some of the $100 billion that Congress allotted last week to prop up health-care institutions straining financially because of the pandemic.

During a White House briefing, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar provided the rough outlines of the plan, saying an unspecified “portion” of that $100 billion would be available to hospitals for the care of patients without health coverage. He said that hospitals will be paid the same rates as under Medicare, the federal insurance program for older Americans, and that hospitals will be forbidden to bill the patients for the difference between their usual charges and the federal rates.

Azar said the payments would be “fast, fair, simple and transparent.”

The administration decided against one method that could have blunted the effect of people losing health benefits when they lose a job. Officials resisted urging by health insurers and others to reopen the federal insurance exchange created by the Affordable Care Act for the roughly three dozen states relying on the HealthCare.gov online sign-up system. Azar noted Friday that the law gives people who lose job-based health benefits an automatic special enrollment period to buy ACA health plans.

In announcing the hospital payments, the president, Vice President Pence and Azar did not disclose critical details — such as how much of the $100 billion would be reserved for this purpose and how the money would be allocated. Hospital industry officials said immediately before the announcement that they have been unable to learn how this would work.

Hospital industry leaders are wary of using any of the $100 billion to cover uninsured patients. They say Congress intended that money as rapid financial props for hospitals that urgently need to cope with loss of revenue and heightened expenses because of the pandemic.

By Amy Goldstein
April 3, 2020 at 6:10 PM EDT

Alabama, Missouri issue stay-at-home orders

The governors of Alabama and Missouri on Friday issued stay-at-home orders, following the lead of most other states attempting to combat the novel coronavirus.

A day after Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-diseases expert, questioned why a dozen states were not under such orders, Alabama’s Kay Ivey (R) announced restrictions would go into effect 5 p.m. Saturday local time and run through April 30. Missouri’s Mike Parson (R) said his order would take hold 12:01 a.m. Monday local time and last until April 24.

The virus is “an imminent threat to our way of life,” Ivey said at a news conference in Montgomery, Ala. “Staying at home is for your own good. … Our surge of hospitalization will occur in the next two or three weeks. Folks, we need to extend our health orders now."

Birmingham, the state’s biggest city, issued a 10-day order to stay at home March 24, and on Friday extended it until the end of April.

Alabama has reported 1,454 cases and 21 deaths tied to the pandemic. All but three of the state’s 67 counties have reported a case.

Missouri has reported 2,113 confirmed cases and 19 deaths.

“For the sake of ALL Missourians, be smart, be responsible, and FOLLOW THIS ORDER. STAY-AT-HOME MISSOURI!” Parson tweeted.

By Steven Goff
April 3, 2020 at 6:10 PM EDT

Trump says he’s invoking DPA to stop export of crucial medical supplies, as 3M warns of humanitarian costs

President Trump said Friday that he is invoking the Defense Production Act to stop the export of “scarce health and medical supplies by unscrupulous actors and profiteers,” as a major respirator manufacturer warned of “significant humanitarian implications.”

Federal officials will work to prevent the export of N95 respirators, surgical masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment, Trump said at Friday’s White House coronavirus task force briefing.

“We need these items immediately for domestic use,” Trump said. “We have to have them.”

The president pointed to previous efforts to use the Defense Production Act to “stop the hoarding and price-gouging of crucial supplies.” This week, he said, federal officials took custody of almost 200,000 N95 respirators, 130,000 surgical masks, 600,000 gloves and other items.

The company 3M said in a statement Friday that the Trump administration’s request that it stop exporting respirators manufactured in the United States to Canadian and Latin American markets would have “significant humanitarian implications.” 3M said it is a “critical supplier of respirators” to health-care workers there.

“In addition, ceasing all export of respirators produced in the United States would likely cause other countries to retaliate and do the same, as some have already done,” 3M said in its statement. “If that were to occur, the net number of respirators being made available to the United States would actually decrease. That is the opposite of what we and the Administration, on behalf of the American people, both seek.”

3M added that it continues to “act on reports of price gouging and unauthorized reselling.”

At Friday’s briefing, Trump expressed unhappiness with 3M and insisted, when asked about the potential negative effect on imports, that the U.S. is “very well supplied.”

By Hannah Knowles
April 3, 2020 at 5:51 PM EDT

Trump says CDC advises voluntary use of non-medical face masks — but he won’t use one himself

President Trump said Friday that the Centers for Disease Control is advising public use of a “nonmedical, cloth-faced covering as an additional voluntary public health measure” — but indicated that he probably wouldn’t use one himself.

“It’s voluntary so you don’t have to do it,” Trump said at the daily coronavirus task force briefing. “They suggest it for a period of time. I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”

Trump cited research that suggests that asymptomatic people can transmit covid-19. He called the voluntary face coverings — which can be a basic cloth or fabric mask made at home — an additional step that Americans can take to defend against transmission of the virus. He emphasized that the guidance was voluntary and that the CDC was not advising people to use medical-grade or surgical-grade masks, which “should be reserved for front-line health-care workers.”

The White House and the CDC have sparred in recent days about whether Americans should wear face coverings in public, The Post reported earlier Friday. The main point of contention was whether to recommend universal use of face covering or focus on areas with high community transmission. Federal health officials, including those at the CDC, contended that the guidance would only make sense if it was recommended broadly.

Trump said the new guidelines do not replace recommendations on social distancing and hand washing.

Later, U.S. surgeon general Jerome Adams acknowledged that guidance around masks has been confusing. He said that the CDC, WHO, his office and most public health organizations initially recommended against the general public wearing masks.

He reiterated research that shows that asymptomatic and presymptomatic people can transmit the virus before they display symptoms.

“Based on the best evidence available at the time, it was not deemed that that would have a significant impact on whether a healthy person wearing a mask would contract covid-19,” Adams said. “We have always recommended symptomatic people wear a mask.”

Lena H. Sun and Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.

By Michael Brice-Saddler
April 3, 2020 at 5:07 PM EDT

Massachusetts to use tracking tactics that were successful in South Korea and Singapore

Massachusetts officials Friday announced an initiative to comprehensively track the spread of the novel coronavirus in the commonwealth, following the successful mitigating tactics used by South Korea and Singapore.

Gov. Charlie Baker (R) said the Covid-19 Response Command Center will collaborate with Partners In Health, a nonprofit organization, on the first such initiative in the United States.

“Enhanced contact tracing capability is another powerful tool for public health officials and health-care providers in the battle against covid-19,” Baker said. “This collaborative tracing initiative will break new ground as we work together to slow the spread.”

Partners in Health will provide staff and contribute technical expertise, Massachusetts officials said, and the Department of Health will maintain data, guides and processes.

Under the initiative, 1,000 staffers will contact coronavirus patients and track anyone with whom those persons have closely associated. The goal is to help limit the further transmission of the virus.

“By monitoring and isolating through an enhanced community tracing program, our state can be positioned to reduce the number of new cases in the long run,” Baker said at a news conference in Boston.

Through Thursday, Massachusetts had reported 8,966 cases and 154 deaths. However, Baker said projections show as many as 172,000 cases at the pandemic’s peak.

South Korea and Singapore have been praised for using a tracking program to help mitigate the spread of the virus. South Korea has reported 10,062 cases and 174 deaths, Singapore 1,154 and five, respectively.

By Steven Goff
April 3, 2020 at 4:41 PM EDT

Dow falls 360 points as Wall Street ends another volatile week

Wall Street ended another wild week on a low note, with the Dow Jones industrial average sinking 360 points Friday as dismal employment numbers painted an increasingly stark picture of the coronavirus economy. The Standard & Poor’s 500 and Nasdaq composite indexes also ended the day in the red.

All three major indexes have declined three of the past five sessions and three of the past four weeks. Each index lost roughly 2 percent of its value between Monday’s open and Friday’s close. That is less than some analysts had feared given the 701,000 U.S. job losses reported in March.

Read more here.

By Thomas Heath and Jacob Bogage