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Jamie Dupree's Washington Insider

    A new report from the Labor Department on Friday showed the economic storm associated with the Coronavirus battering the U.S. economy in March, causing the loss of 701,000 jobs, and pushing the jobless rate up by almost one percent, the largest monthly increase in over forty five years. The unemployment rate was at 4.4 percent in March, not far under the 4.7 percent rate when President Donald Trump took office in January of 2017, the highest jobless rate of his presidency. 'Employment in leisure and hospitality fell by 459,000, mainly in food services and drinking places,' the Labor Department reported.  'Notable declines also occurred in health care and social assistance, professional and business services, retail trade, and construction,' the report added. Lawmakers and economists readily acknowledged upcoming unemployment reports would likely be even worse. 'Elevated unemployment at 4.4 percent in the March jobs report shows only a glimpse of the surge in layoffs caused by the economic impact of the coronavirus,' said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX). '700k is an awful jobs month,' tweeted Austan Goolsbee, a top economic adviser under President Barack Obama. 'That it’s the best news we will get for some time should give us a terrible pit in our stomach.' Last week, 3.3 million Americans filed for initial jobless claims. That number doubled this week, as 6.6 million Americans made similar filings, indicating massive amounts of unemployment. The massive amount of job losses have sent state governments scrambling to help people seeking jobless benefits. But some states have found their systems ill-prepared for such a surge. “I'm in Florida and get an error on the unemployment website when trying to sign-up,” one person told me.  “I call and the phone number is busy.”
  • The regular White House briefing on the U.S. response to the Coronavirus aired slightly differing views on the path of the White House effort to convince Americans to sharply curtail their social activities, as the President on Thursday saw a glass half full with progress being made, while a top health official publicly pressed Americans to do more to limit the spread of the virus. 'I can tell by the curve, as it is today, that not every American is following' the President's social distancing guidelines, said Dr. Deborah Birx, as she chided people for holding dinner and cocktail parties. 'So, this is really a call to action,' Birx told reporters. Taking a different approach, President Trump tried to emphasize the positive, talking up states where no rush of Coronavirus cases had been seen, and seemingly suggesting that Dr. Birx do the same. 'I think that's what you meant,' the President said to Birx at one point. Like a teacher expressing her displeasure with the behavior of her students, Birx repeatedly made clear at Thursday's briefing that she was not pleased with how some Americans have responded to the President's call for action. 'What I expected when the President put out guidelines, that said don't go to bars, don't be in groups of 10 people,' Birx told reporters, 'that was serious.' 'But Debra, aren't you referring to just a few states?' the President said, standing next to her. 'We have states doing incredibly well,' the President said a few minutes later. The back and forth played out for reporters - and a nationwide television audience - in real time from the White House Briefing Room. 'I think that everybody would have to be thrilled with the way most states are doing,' the President said at one point. 'I am passionate about everyone following the guidelines,' Birx added a minute later, as she warned that other states seem ready to follow the bad path of New York and New Jersey. While the President acknowledged growing virus problems in Louisiana and Michigan, he again returned to his overall assessment. 'We have states that have been really incredible, by the fact they have kept so low,' Mr. Trump added. 'I think they've done a good job,' the President said. 'We've done on average really phenomenally as a country.' Mr. Trump's remarks came as the U.S. recorded over 1,000 deaths from the Coronavirus in a day for the first time, as over 2,000 people died in just two days, sending the overall U.S. death toll to almost 6,000 on Thursday evening.
  • Amid continuing controversy over the best way to rush aid to working Americans, businesses, hospitals, and local governments to deal with the outbreak of the Coronavirus, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday that she would move to set up a new special panel in the U.S. House to oversee those efforts, saying it's important to have transparency about the massive amount of relief money. 'We need to ensure those dollars are spent effectively and carefully,' Pelosi said in a press conference by phone with reporters, as she said Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) would be in charge of reviewing the $2 trillion in aid approved by Congress in March. 'We have no higher priority than making sure the money gets to those working families struggling to pay rent and put food on the table who need it most,' Pelosi added. 'The fact is, we do need transparency, and we do need accountability,' the Speaker said. In making the announcement, the Speaker said this panel would be different than the call by other Democrats for a '9-11 Commission' about the Coronavirus, saying the emphasis must be on what's happening right now - not what happened before. 'The Select Committee is about the here and now,' Pelosi added. In describing the job of the new panel, the Speaker compared this to the work of the Truman Commission, named for then Sen. Harry Truman, who was put in charge of a panel which held hearings and investigated waste, fraud, and abuse related to the war effort during World War II. The idea - which would need a vote of the House to create the panel and fund its operations - drew immediate opposition from the top Republican in the House. 'This seems really redundant,' said Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who told reporters by phone that he did not support the selection of Clyburn to run the panel, as the GOP leader questioned the goal, and said there was no reason to take oversight away from regular committees of the House. 'I'm not quite sure if this is political,' McCarthy added in a news briefing by telephone with reporters.
  • Looking for ways to stop the further spread in the United States of the Coronavirus, President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that he was considering a plan to limit flights between certain cities which have been virus hotspots, but shrugging off the broader idea of halting all travel in the U.S. by air or rail. 'I am looking at hotspots,' the President said at his daily Coronavirus briefing at the White House. 'I am looking where flights are going into hotspots.' But pressed by reporters about a broader ban on travel - whether airlines or trains - the President indicated that did not seem to be one of his likely choices.  'Closing up every single flight on every single airline, that's a very, very rough decision,' Mr. Trump added. 'We have trains going back and forth, and people don't think of trains,' the President noted. 'It's a very big decision to do that (close them down).' The issue of restrictions on airline travel comes at a time when the U.S. airline industry is seeing record low traffic, as airlines have grounded passenger jets and reduced flights. Data released by the Transportation Security Administration shows a gigantic drop in the number of air travelers going through security at America's airports since the virus outbreak began, as many flights are operating with just a few passengers on board. 'When you start closing up entire transportation systems, and then opening them up, that's a very tough thing to do,' the President said. As for when he would make a decision, the President indicated he would not wait too long. 'We will let you know fairly soon,' Mr. Trump said Wednesday evening.
  • A day after President Donald Trump said he would support a $2 trillion infrastructure package as a way to spur economic growth stalled by the outbreak of the Coronavirus, House Democratic leaders said they were ready to develop a plan with the White House. 'We are ready,' House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on a Wednesday morning conference call. 'It's never been partisan.' Joined by several other top Democrats, the Speaker made the case that there is an obvious need for a fourth economic aid package dealing with the virus - what's known as 'Phase 4' to lawmakers. 'We must take bold action to renew America's infrastructure,' Pelosi added. While not setting out the exact details of a new plan, Pelosi and other key Democrats made clear there were several areas which deserved attention - not just new roads and bridges. Pelosi rattled off priorities like money to build new community health centers, resources for broadband in rural areas and smaller towns, clean water infrastructure, and then money for roads, bridges, and mass transit programs. The President has talked a lot about infrastructure, but never really taken the next step to negotiate a plan with Democrats, who now see a giant opportunity to move forward. 'For once, I agree with him on a step he wants to take,' said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The broader questions looming over the nation about the Coronavirus also apply to the Congress - as while the House is due back after Easter, it's not clear what the health situation will be nationwide at that point, and whether lawmakers will return to legislate. 'I think we come back April 20, God willing, and Coronavirus willing,' the Speaker said.
  • The White House on Tuesday released new estimates of a staggering death toll associated with the spread of the Coronavirus in the United States, predicting anywhere between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths even if Americans do their best to avoid social interactions, as President Donald Trump warned the nation of a difficult road ahead. 'This is going to be a very painful, very, very painful two weeks,' the President said at the White House. 'This is going to be a rough two week period.' In the White House Briefing Room, Mr. Trump fully embraced scientific models championed by experts which show many thousands of Americans are likely to die in the month of April from the virus. 'I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead,' the President said. 'We're going to go through a very tough two weeks.' The blunt warning came on the deadliest day yet in the United States as a whole, as nearly 800 deaths had been announced on Tuesday by the time the President reached the podium at the White House. 'It's a matter of life and death, frankly,' Mr. Trump said, as he urged Americans to follow the federal request for people to hold back on their social actions. By his side again at the White House, both Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx laid out the figures from a series of studies, which predicted that between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans could die - many in the next few weeks. Birx and Fauci repeatedly emphasized that if Americans do their part to hold down the spread of the virus, that will in turn allow many people to survive. Asked about deaths of 100,000 or more, health officials did not mince words as to whether it might or might not happen. 'The answer is yes,' said Dr. Fauci. 'As sobering a number as that is, we should be prepared for it.
  • On the heels of a $2.2 trillion economic rescue package to help the United States rebound from the negative economic impact of the Coronavirus, President Donald Trump on Tuesday signaled that he would be ready to support an almost equal amount of spending to build new roads and bridges in the United States. 'It should be VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country,' the President wrote on Twitter. Mr. Trump cited low interest rates as one reason to spend extra money - a suggestion made by the Chairman of the Federal Reserve last week to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as well. Since 2015, when he was a candidate for President, Mr. Trump has talked repeatedly about the need for a major infrastructure plan, but has never offered Congress a way to pay for it - which has been the major stumbling block for the past ten years on building new roads and bridges. With less gasoline being used - not enough money is coming into the U.S. Treasury in federal gas taxes to support a major expansion of road and bridge construction - creating the need for a larger funding source. The President's tweet drew an immediate vow of support from the GOP Senator in charge of infrastructure efforts. 'We stand ready to answer @realDonaldTrump’s call,' Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) wrote on Twitter. 'In the Senate, we have a bipartisan bill that will invest billions in America’s highways and is ready to go.' But others, like fiscal hawk Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), weren't ready for a full embrace. 'I agree!' said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) in a tweet directed back at the President. 'Help get your Republican colleagues to agree.' The President's tweet came amid some political maneuvering on what should be in the next Congressional stimulus bill - what many refer to as 'Phase 4' of the Coronavirus response.
  • A day after telling Americans that he would extend his call to drastically scale back social activity until the end of April, President Donald Trump said his administration was making big gains in making more tests available to check for the Coronavirus, even as some elected officials said it was clear not all needs were being met. 'Over one million Americans have now been tested,' the President said from the White House Rose Garden, praising companies for developing newer processes to more quickly test Americans. 'Today we reached a milestone in our war against the Coronavirus,' Mr. Trump added. As for his move to extend social distancing until April 30, the President urged Americans to join together. 'This is our shared patriotic duty - challenging times are ahead for the next 30 days,' Mr. Trump said. While the President sternly defended his administration's record on testing - at one point rebuking a reporter for asking what he said was a 'snarky' question on the subject - there continue to be concerns voiced in both parties, and evidence from around the nation of testing shortages. 'We need to do more to ramp up our testing capacity,' said Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) on Monday, even as he praised efforts by the White House to achieve that. 'We have to do much more on testing, we’re ramping up, surging up in that capacity as we work toward some sort of medicine to address the virus,' said Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR). As the President reportedly told Governors on a Monday call that he has not heard of testing shortages, there are examples readily available - like this from Huntsville, Alabama. President Trump began his Monday briefing by referencing his Sunday announcement that he would extend social distancing guidelines through the end of April, in a bid to slow the spread of the virus. Voicing his support for scientific models about the spread of the virus, the President said the move to extend restrictions on social activities would pay off in a big way. “We could save more than one million American lives,” Mr. Trump said, as he has said the most likely scenario right now involves between 100,000 and 200,000 Americans dying of the Coronavirus.
  • Three days after returning to the U.S. Capitol for House debate on a $2.2 trillion economic rescue package to deal with the Coronavirus, Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) announced she was sick with what doctors presume is a Coronavirus infection, raising questions about whether other lawmakers could have been exposed last Friday. 'I noticed that I could no longer smell my perfume or taste my food,' Velazquez said in a written statement, noting one of the prominent signs of the Coronavirus. 'My symptoms are mild at the present time,' Velazquez added, as she noted that she started to feel bad early on Sunday morning, with an 'abrupt onset of muscle aches, fevers, nasal congestion and stomach upset.' Velazquez was one of the early speakers in the Friday debate on the Coronavirus plan. 'I am proud of the work we accomplished in this package,' the veteran New York Democrat said on the floor. Velazquez was one of a number of lawmakers from the New York area who came to Capitol Hill for the debate - even though the feds had urged travelers from that region to self-isolate for 14 days, amid concerns that the virus was being spread to other areas. Four House members have officially tested positive for the Coronavirus; one, Rep. Ben McAdams (D-UT) has been hospitalized since last week. Velazquez not only spoke on the House floor, and visited her office, but also was present for the bill enrollment ceremony with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. You can see her in this photo from the video feed provided by the Speaker's office, standing just to the side of Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), on the left side of the photo. Also in the room on Friday afternoon with Velasquez, Clyburn, and Speaker Pelosi were House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and a number of other top Democrats in the House. Leaders of both parties had wanted to quickly approve the economic stimulus measure on Friday, but Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) forced about half of the House to return, in order to have a quorum present for the vote. Massie did not have enough support to force a vote on the record, and the measure was approved by voice.
  • A day after changing course and moving to extend social distancing guidelines through the end of April to fight the Coronavirus, President Donald Trump told a friendly interview on Fox News that Americans must do their part to help hold down the number of deaths from the virus outbreak. 'It's hard work to stay in place, to distance yourself,' the President said in a Monday morning phone call to 'Fox and Friends.' 'And hopefully, we will keep the deaths down to a minimum,' the President said, after telling Americans on Sunday that if his administration can keep deaths from the virus to 100,000, that would be a 'good job.' For weeks the President had sought to downplay the threat of the virus, saying at one point the number of cases would soon go to zero - but on Sunday, he accepted new scientific models which showed deaths ranging from 100,000 to 200,000 if mitigation efforts to slow the spread are effective. In his Fox News interview, Mr. Trump spoke again about conditions at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, New York, near where the President grew up, as that hospital has been swamped by Coronavirus cases. 'It's terrible what's going on, there's body bags all over, they're bringing in refrigerator trucks,' the President said. In New York, field hospitals are being built at several locations to bolster medical treatment - including one in Central Park - as the scenes inside local hospitals are getting extra attention from the city tabloids. While the President has focused on the situation in New York, top health officials have also raised red flags about growing virus problems in other areas - like Louisiana, Chicago, and Detroit. The total number of deaths in the U.S. was nearing 2,500 on Monday morning, as the President said the peak rate was expected by Easter. Currently, the total number of deaths in the U.S. is doubling every three days.  If that pace continues in the short term, the U.S. would pass the number of swine flu deaths next week (12,000), and reach over 60,000 deaths by Easter.

The Latest News Headlines

  • More than one million people worldwide -- including more than 245,000 people in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. Officials are attempting to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. as hospitals brace for unprecedented patient surges. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the U.S. here. Live updates for Friday, April 3, continue below:  4,372 new coronavirus cases reported in New Jersey Update 1:40 p.m. EDT April 3: Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey said Friday that 4,372 new COVID-19 cases have been reported, bringing the statewide total to 29,895. In addition, Murphy said 113 new fatal coronavirus cases were identified. In all, 646 people have died of COVID-19 in the state. Murphy identified one of the victims as James Brown, the principal of Grover Middle School in Caldwell. He was 48 years old. CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin tests positive for COVID-19 Update 1:15 p.m. EDT April 3: CNN reporter Brooke Baldwin announced Friday on Instagram that she’s been diagnosed with COVID-19. “I am OKAY,” she wrote Friday. “It came on suddenly yesterday afternoon. Chills, aches, fever. I’ve been social distancing. Doing ALL the things we’re being told to do. Still -- it got me.” She said she has no underlying health conditions and that overall, she feels “like one of the lucky ones.” “I look forward to being back on (television) and seeing you real soon,' she wrote. She also thanked health care workers for their efforts on the front line of the coronavirus battle. Baldwin is at least the second CNN anchor to test positive for coronavirus. Earlier, reporter Chris Cuomo said he was self-isolating after being diagnosed with the viral infection. Special small business loans available beginning Friday Update 1:10 p.m. EDT April 3: Beginning Friday, small businesses struggling to stay afloat as the COVID-19 virus continues to spread across the United States can apply for the nearly $350 billion in loans set up through the CARES Act passed by Congress last month. Four programs are now in place to help small businesses to stay in business until the public health crisis triggered by COVID-19 abates. The programs came from the CARES Act which was signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27. 109 new coronavirus cases reported in Oklahoma Update 12:45 p.m. EDT April 3: Officials in Oklahoma said 109 new coronavirus infections were reported Friday, raising the total number of cases in the state to 988, according to KOKI-TV. Four new coronavirus-related deaths were also reported in the state, bringing Oklahoma’s COVID-19 death toll to 38. The four new fatal cases involved patients who were all over 65 years old. Pennsylvania officials report 1,404 new coronavirus cases Update 12:40 p.m. EDT April 3: Officials in Pennsylvania reported 1,404 new coronavirus infections Friday, bringing the state’s total to 8,420, WPXI reported. In addition, officials with the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 12 more deaths. Statewide 102 people have died of COVID-19, according to WPXI. 104 new coronavirus infections reported in DC Update 12:20 p.m. EDT April 3: Officials in Washington D.C. said 104 new coronavirus infections have been reported, bringing the total in the district to 757. Mayor Muriel Bowser said three new fatal cases were also reported Friday. In all, 15 people have died due to COVID-19 in Washington D.C. Delta Air Lines giving passengers 2 years to rebook flights Update 12:15 p.m. EDT April 3: Delta Air Lines announced Friday that the company is extending its window to redeem travel credits from one to two years amid the coronavirus outbreak. The change will allow for travel credits to be used through May 2022. “Just as our business is changing, we know that events in our customers’ lives are being changed and canceled, too,” airline officials said Friday in a statement. “Whether customers have been affected by recent schedule adjustments or want additional reassurance about upcoming travel, we’re now extending the ability to plan, re-book and travel with us for up to two years – giving Delta customers some extra breathing room.” Temporary military hospitals to begin taking COVID-19 patients, Pentagon says Update 11:55 a.m. EDT April 3: The Pentagon said it will begin accepting COVID-19 positive patients at Pentagon-supported medical facilities in Dallas and New Orleans that previously had been designated as non-COVID hospitals. COVID-19 positive patients in convalescent care and those deemed non-urgent cases will be accepted at the Morial federal medical station in New Orleans and at the Kay Bailey Hutchison federal medical center in Dallas. These patients must first be screened at a local hospital. President Donald Trump on Thursday announced that he had approved New York’s request that COVID-19 patients be accepted for care at the Pentagon-supported Javits center, which previously had taken on non-COVID patients. The Pentagon also said Friday that screening for care of non-COVID-19 patients on the hospital ship USNS Comfort in New York harbor is being modified in an effort to reduce a backlog at some New York hospitals. Instead of requiring patients to be tested for COVID-19 at the hospital from which they are being transferred, each patient transferred to the Comfort will be screened by temperature and given a short questionnaire pier-side. The Pentagon also announced that the number of COVID-19 positive cases in the active-duty military had risen to 978 as of Friday morning. That is up 85 from a day earlier. New York reports 562 new fatal COVID-19 cases Update 11:30 a.m. EDT April 3: Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York said the state saw its “highest single increase in the number of deaths since we started” on Friday. Officials reported 562 new deaths attributed to COVID-19, bringing the state’s death toll to 2,373. 102,863 coronavirus infections reported in New York Update 11:20 a.m. EDT April 3: Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York said Friday that 10,481 new coronavirus infections have been reported, bringing the state’s total number of COVID-19 cases to 102,863. New York has been the state hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. UK prime minister to continue self-isolating Update 11 a.m. EDT April 3: Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom said Friday that he will continue to self-isolate past the recommended seven-day period as he deals with a “minor symptom” lingering since his COVID-19 diagnosis. Johnson said he continues to have a fever. “In accordance with government advice, I must continue my self-isolation until that symptom itself goes,' he said. “But we’re clearly working the whole time on our program to defeat the virus.” Mayor tells New York City residents to wear face coverings in public Update 10:50 a.m. EDT April 3: Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City said Friday that residents should wear face coverings while around people who are not part of their families or households to stymie the spread of the new coronavirus. He said in a video posted Friday to Twitter that he’s been asked several times recently whether masks are appropriate for people in the general public. “The masks -- the surgical masks, those N95 masks -- we want to keep those for the health care workers, for the first responders,” he said. “We’re now advising all New Yorkers, when you go outside and you’re close to other people -- not your own family and people under your same roof, but when you’re close to other people -- have a bandanna, a scarf, some kind of face covering you can use when you happen to be in close proximity to people.” He emphasized that the mask does not protect against coronavirus and urged people to continue keeping at least 6 feet of space between each other. “(This) will help make sure that if, God forbid you’ve contracted the disease, even if you’re not yet symptomatic, that you won’t inadvertently spread it to someone else,” he said. “It’s a precaution to protect others.” Cruise ship en route to Florida confirms 12 COVID-19 cases Update 10:20 a.m. EDT April 3: Health officials have confirmed a dozen coronavirus infections on a Princess Cruise Lines ship headed toward Fort Lauderdale, Florida, company officials said Thursday. Princess Cruise Lines said that on Tuesday, crew members on the Coral Princess sent 13 COVID-19 test samples to health officials in Barbados. Of those, samples from seven guests and five crew members tested positive for the viral infection. The Coral Princess had set sail March 5 from Chile, one week before Princess Cruises announced a 60-day pause of operations. It was scheduled to travel to Argentina, where passengers were set to disembark March 19. Stocks open lower after US government reports 700,000 job losses Update 9:50 a.m. EDT April 3: Stocks wavered in early trading on Wall Street after the U.S. government reported that more than 700,000 jobs were lost last month. Businesses have shut down across the country and the world as people stay home in hopes of slowing the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. The S&P 500 was up 0.4% in the first few minutes of trading. European markets were down Friday after losses in most of Asia. The price of oil continued to rise on hopes for a global deal to limit overproduction, which helped boost energy stocks. The price of benchmark U.S. crude rose 7%. Grupo Modelo to halt production of Corona beer Update 9:45 a.m. EDT April 3: Grupo Modelo, the Mexican company that brews Corona beer, said Friday in a statement that it will halt production of the drink and others it brews to comply with Mexico’s closure of non-essential businesses. U.S. economy lost 701,000 jobs in March Update 9:15 a.m. EDT April 3: A new report from the Labor Department on Friday showed the economic storm associated with the coronavirus battering the U.S. economy in March, causing the loss of 701,000 jobs, and pushing the jobless rate up by almost one percent -- the largest monthly increase in over 45 years. The unemployment rate was at 4.4 percent in March, not far under the 4.7 percent rate when President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, the highest jobless rate of his presidency. 'Employment in leisure and hospitality fell by 459,000, mainly in food services and drinking places,' the Labor Department reported. “Notable declines also occurred in health care and social assistance, professional and business services, retail trade, and construction,” the report added. UK officials report 684 new fatal coronavirus cases Update 9:05 a.m. EDT April 3: Officials in the United Kingdom recorded 684 new fatal COVID-19 cases on Friday, raising the country’s coronavirus death toll to 3,605. The number is slightly higher than the 569 deaths reported Thursday. Authorities with the British Department of Health and Social Care also announced 4,450 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases. In all, officials said 33,718 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus infections in the U.K. Germany becomes 4th nation to surpass China’s total coronavirus count Update 7:53 a.m. EDT April 3: The global death toll attributed to the novel coronavirus hit 54,137 early Friday, and Spain’s total number of infections surpassed that of Italy, according to a tally maintained by Johns Hopkins University. In the four months since the virus was first identified in Wuhan, China, it has infected at least 1,030,628 people worldwide. Four countries – the United States, Spain, Italy and Germany – have now confirmed total infection counts well above China’s 82,509 tally. • The United States has reported 245,573 cases, resulting in 6,058 deaths. • Spain has reported 117,710 infections, resulting in 10,935 deaths. • Italy has confirmed 115,242 cases, resulting in 13,915 deaths. • Germany has reported 85,063 cases, resulting in 1,111 deaths. • China has recorded 82,509 cases, resulting in 3,326 deaths. • France has confirmed 59,929 infections, resulting in 5,398 deaths. • Iran has recorded 53,183 cases, resulting in 3,160 deaths. • The United Kingdom has reported 34,192 cases, resulting in 2,926 deaths. • Switzerland has confirmed 19,145 cases, resulting in 573 deaths. • Turkey has recorded 18,135 cases, resulting in 356 deaths. UK field hospital NHS Nightingale opens less than 2 weeks after project began Update 7:41 a.m. EDT April 3: Less than two weeks after crews began repurposing London’s ExCel conference center to accommodate overflow novel coronavirus patients, the NHS Nightingale field hospital stands ready to serve. Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, called the timely transformation a “spectacular and almost unbelievable feat.” “(It’s) an example – if ever one was needed – of how the impossible could be made possible,” he said Friday via a video-link from Scotland, where he has been self-isolating after being diagnosed with the virus in March. “In this dark time, this place will be a shining light,” Prince Charles said, adding, “It is symbolic of the selfless care and devoted service taking place in innumerable settings, with countless individuals throughout the United Kingdom.” To date, the United Kingdom has reported 34,192 cases, resulting in 2,926 deaths. Coronavirus cases continue mounting in Brazil, Japan Update 6:56 a.m. EDT April 3: With more than 1 million novel coronavirus cases now recorded worldwide, new – and some old – hotspots are emerging as the pandemic continues its global spread. • Brazil confirmed Thursday its third consecutive day logging at least 1,000 new cases. The South American country now reports a total of 7,910 infections, which have resulted in at least 299 deaths. • Japan confirmed early Friday that 235 additional novel coronavirus cases have brought the East Asian country’s total to 3,329, resulting in at least 63 deaths. • Tokyo reported its largest single-day increase in new cases on Friday with 97. Japan’s capital city has now confirmed a total of 684 cases. Portion of famed Paris market repurposed as makeshift morgue Update 6:33 a.m. EDT April 3: A portion of the Rungis food market on the outskirts of Paris has been converted into a temporary morgue to handle the swelling number of novel coronavirus fatalities reported in the region. According to The Washington Post, the Paris Police Prefecture is converting one isolated building in the world’s largest meat and vegetable market into a makeshift morgue, capable of accommodating between 800 and 1,000 coffins. “This location will permit the coffins of the deceased to be kept in the most dignified and acceptable conditions from a health point of view, pending their burial or cremation in France or abroad,” the prefecture said in a statement, circulated widely among French media. According to a tally maintained by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, France has recorded at least 59,929 COVID-19 infections since the global pandemic began, resulting in 5,398 fatalities. Libya confirms 1st coronavirus-related death Update 4:35 a.m. EDT April 3: Libya’s National Center for Disease Control confirmed the country’s first novel coronavirus-related fatality in a statement released Thursday. The patient, who was not diagnosed until after hear death, was an 85-year-old woman. According to a tally maintained by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, the North African nation has reported a total of 11 infections to date. Lenders question Friday rollout of $349B small business coronavirus relief program Update 4:23 a.m. EDT April 3: The $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program is slated to launch today, but banks tapped to disperse the emergency federal small business loans told The Washington Post they are skeptical the plan is rollout-ready. “Having just received guidance outlining how to implement a $349 billion program literally hours before it starts, we would ask for everyone to be patient as banks move heaven and earth to get a system in place and running to help America’s small businesses and the millions of men and women who work at them,” Richard Hunt, president and chief executive officer of the Consumer Bankers Association, said in a statement. The Paycheck Protection Program, considered a key element of the $2.2 trillion economic relief package approved by Congress one week ago, is intended to deliver a “sharply streamlined, same-day approval process unheard of in the history of federally backed small business lending,” the Post reported. Several participating lenders indicated in interviews with the Post as late as Thursday, however, that they are still awaiting finalized program guidelines from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Small Business Administration before processing any applications despite today’s launch date. Amid coronavirus crisis Disney to furlough employees ‘whose jobs aren't necessary at this time’ Update 3:28 a.m. EDT April 3: Walt Disney Co. has officially notified employees that those “whose jobs aren’t necessary at this time” will be furloughed beginning April 19. The global entertainment empire shuttered all 12 of its theme parks on March 12 and has been paying its employees salaries in the interim. Per the latest announcement, those payments will cease on April 18. The company said in its statement it has been “forced to make the difficult decision to take the next step and furlough employees” because there is “no clear indication of when we can restart our businesses.” All furloughed workers will remain employed by Disney and retain their benefits. Mexico’s Grupo Modelo halts production of Corona beer Update 2:54 a.m. EDT April 3: Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo announced late Thursday it will temporarily halt production of Corona beer as the novel coronavirus pandemic pits essential products against those deemed nonessential. In a news release, Grupo Modelo said the move is in response to the Mexican government’s Tuesday directive that suspends temporarily most industries not deemed “essential” services such as health care and agriculture. In turn, the company plans to cease producing its brews on Sunday with no clear timeline outlined for a return to production. Supplies seized from suspected Brooklyn hoarder donated to medical staffs fighting coronavirus Update 2:32 a.m. EDT April 3: Some New York and New Jersey medical personnel are slightly better stocked after a Brooklyn man’s arrest led authorities to a stockpile of hoarded medical supplies, CNN reported. Prosecutors contend in court documents that Baruch Feldheim, 43, sold N95 masks to doctors and nurses at substantially inflated prices. In turn, the roughly 192,000 in-demand respirator masks and assorted other supplies are being redistributed to medical personnel across New York and New Jersey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Sony launches $100 million global coronavirus relief fund Update 2 a.m. EDT April 3: Sony is preparing to launch $100 million fund to provide global relief to those affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic. “Sony extends its condolences to the families of those who have passed away as a result of the coronavirus crisis and extends its sympathies to all those who have been impacted,” Kenichiro Yoshida, Sony’s president and chief executive officer, said in a prepared statement, adding, “In order to overcome the unprecedented challenges that as a society we now face around the world, we will do all we can as a global company to support the individuals on the front lines of the battle against coronavirus the children who are our future, and those who have been impacted in the creative community.' US coronavirus deaths hit 6,053, total cases top 245K Update 12:30 a.m. EDT April 3: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States surpassed 245,000 early Friday morning across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, there are at least 245,540 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 6,053 deaths. U.S. cases now more than double the 115,242 reported in Italy and the 112,065 confirmed in Spain. Of the confirmed U.S. deaths, 2,374 – or roughly 40 percent of the nationwide total – have occurred in New York, 537 in New Jersey and 417 in Michigan.  In terms of diagnosed cases, New York remains the hardest hit with at least 92,720 confirmed cases – or more than three times the next-closest state – followed by New Jersey with 25,590 and California with 11,042. Seven other states have now confirmed at least 6,000 novel coronavirus cases each, including: • Michigan: 10,791, including 417 deaths • Louisiana: 9,159, including 310 deaths • Florida: 9,008, including 144 deaths • Massachusetts: 8,966, including 154 deaths • Illinois: 7,695, including 163 deaths • Pennsylvania: 7,268, including 90 deaths • Washington: 6,588, including 271 deaths Meanwhile, Georgia and Texas each has confirmed at least 5,000 novel coronavirus infections; Connecticut, Colorado and Indiana each has confirmed at least 3,000 cases; and Ohio, Tennessee and Maryland each has confirmed at least 2,000 cases. Click here to see CNN’s state-by-state breakdown. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Researchers at a Michigan university believe they have discovered a way to decontaminate face masks, which have been in short supply -- bake them. Scientists at Michigan State University are using commercial ovens to effectively clean N95 face masks -- a process that appears to be working, the Lansing State Journal reported. “I think we have a duty and obligation to use those resources in any way we can in this moment,” university extension director Jeff Dwyer told the State Journal. 'We need to be open to new ideas and new ways of doing things and push for solutions. Then this becomes an instance that we believe the decontamination of N95 masks … will be one of the important components of saving the lives of patients who have COVID-19 and the lives of the health care providers taking care of them.” The school hopes to start using the process next week to help medical facilities decontaminate face masks for health care workers.
  • Beginning Friday, small businesses struggling to stay afloat as the COVID-19 virus continues to spread across the United States can apply for the nearly $350 billion in loans set up through the CARES Act passed by Congress last month. Four programs are now in place to help small businesses to stay in business until the public health crisis triggered by COVID-19 abates. The programs came from the CARES Act which was signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27. The programs, the Small Business Administration pointed out in a sample form, are much easier to apply for than typical loans. Many businesses across the U.S. – those with fewer than 500 employees – are eligible for the programs. And it is not just what one may consider traditional small businesses. Freelancers, nonprofits and proprietorships are also able to get help. In addition to funding programs the SBA normally runs, the CARES Act established four new temporary programs to address businesses affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Here, from the SBA website, is the information on the CARES Act programs: 1. Paycheck Protection Program SBA will forgive loans taken by small businesses “if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities.” How do you get it: You can apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union and Farm Credit System institution that is participating. Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans once they are approved and enrolled in the program. You should consult with your local lender as to whether it is participating in the program. The Paycheck Protection Program will be available through June 30, 2020. Click here to learn more about the program. 2. EIDL Loan Advance This loan advance will provide up to $10,000 of economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing temporary difficulties. “This advance will provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. Funds will be made available following a successful application. This loan advance will not have to be repaid.” How do you get it? This program is for any small business with fewer than 500 employees (including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and self-employed persons), private nonprofit organizations or 501(c)(19) veterans organizations affected by COVID-19. Businesses in certain industries that may have more than 500 employees are eligible for the loan if they meet the SBA’s size standards for those industries. The Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance funds will be made available within days of a successful application, and this loan advance will not have to be repaid. Click here to learn more about the program. 3. SBA Express Bridge Loans Enables small businesses that currently have a business relationship with an SBA Express Lender to access up to $25,000 quickly. “These loans can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing and can be a term loan or used to bridge the gap while applying for a direct SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan. If a small business has an urgent need for cash while waiting for decision and disbursement on an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, they may qualify for an SBA Express Disaster Bridge Loan,” the SBA website says. Click here to learn more about this program. 4. SBA debt relief The SBA is providing a financial reprieve to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of SBA's debt relief efforts: The SBA will automatically pay the principal, interest and fees of current 7(a) loans for a period of six months. The SBA will also automatically pay the principal, interest and fees of new 7(a) loans issued prior to Sept. 27, 2020. Additional debt relief For current SBA Serviced Disaster (Home and Business) Loans: If your disaster loan was in “regular servicing” status on March 1, 2020, the SBA is providing automatic deferments through Dec. 31, 2020. What does an “automatic deferral” mean to borrowers? The SBA says:  Interest will continue to accrue on the loan. Monthly payment notices will continue to be mailed out which will reflect the loan is deferred and no payment is due. The deferment will NOT cancel any established Preauthorized Debit (PAD) or recurring payments on your loan.  Borrowers preferring to continue making regular payments during the deferment period may continue remitting payments during the deferment period. SBA will apply those payments normally as if there was no deferment. After this automatic deferment period, borrowers will be required to resume making regular principal and interest payments. Borrowers that canceled recurring payments will need to reestablish the recurring payment. Click here to learn more about the program.
  • A Michigan grandfather has been taking extraordinary measures to see his granddaughter -- walking more than four miles to set eyes on the newborn through a glass partition. Josh Gillett shared a photo of one of the visits of his father and daughter Elliana Rae on social media this week. “It breaks my heart that my dad can’t hold my daughter,” Gillett wrote. “However, as you can clearly see on my dad’s face, he’s overflowing with joy just to see her.” Gillett said his father, who’s not been identified, held Elliana Rae twice before Michigan went on lockdown. “While my wife was pregnant, I don’t think an hour went by where my dad didn’t brag about becoming a grandpa soon,” Gillett wrote. “Now, his granddaughter is finally here, and the only things he can hold are the daily pictures we send him.” A “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order telling residents to isolate themselves was issued last week. The order also closed nonessential businesses and schools, WXMI reported. Then, earlier this week, a state of disaster was declared closing any remaining schools and increasing social distancing measures. There are more than 10,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 417 deaths, according to The New York Times.
  • While everyone is social distancing and self-quarantining, why not pick up a new hobby? Multiple guitar companies are teaching how to play guitar for free. Fender announced three free months of lessons on Fender Play, People magazine reported. The company will teach you how to play acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass or ukulele. All you have to do is sign up and find an instrument. At the same time, Gibson is teaming with Amped Guitars to offer free months of online guitar lessons, NME reported. Those companies are using the Amped Guitar Learning app that is currently only available on the Apple App store to learn how to play. The app has lessons and then allows musicians to play with some of the greats like The Beatles, Tom Petty and B.B. King through audio augmented reality technology, NME reported.

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