Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: April 17, 2020

Trump unveils guidelines on reopening the economy, U.S. coronavirus deaths surge to a one-day record, and more 


Trump unveils guidelines, task force for reopening economy

The White House on Thursday unveiled its proposed guidelines for resuming economic activity after shutdowns imposed to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. State and local governments will make the final decisions on reopening businesses in their jurisdictions, President Trump said. The White House urged states to keep restrictions in place until they see a steady decline of cases over 14 days. Also on Thursday, Trump invited a bipartisan group of lawmakers to participate in a task force to advise him on getting the economy going again. Every Republican senator except frequent Trump critic Mitt Romney of Utah was asked to participate, as were some Republican House members and 22 congressional Democrats. Some Republicans called for returning to normal quickly; Democrats said it was best to continue social distancing policies.


U.S. coronavirus deaths spike to one-day record

Public health officials reported 4,591 deaths in the United States from COVID-19 on Thursday, nearly doubling the previous one-day record of 2,569 set on Wednesday. As of Friday morning, the total coronavirus death toll in the U.S. was more than 33,000, with more than 670,000 infections. The number of new confirmed infections reported Thursday was roughly the same as on Wednesday, at 31,451. In China, authorities revised the official death toll attributed to the novel coronavirus by more than one third. In the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the first cases were reported late last year, public health officials increased the number of deaths by 1,290 to 3,869. They said the revisions stemmed from delays counting people who died at home in the early stages of the outbreak.


Jobless claims rise to 22 million over last month

Another 5.2 million Americans filed initial claims for unemployment benefits last week as ongoing shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic continued to hammer the economy, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The new applications brought the job losses over the last four weeks to about 22 million in a 159 million-person workforce. The losses nearly erased all of the job gains since the 2008-2009 financial crisis. Still, the latest drop marked an improvement over the 6.6 million new unemployment claims recorded the previous week, and was close to the 5 million jobless claims economists had forecast, on average. Before the coronavirus shutdowns, the one-week record for new unemployment filings was 695,000.


Midwest governors unveil plan to cooperate on restarting regional economy

A bipartisan group of seven Midwest governors announced Thursday that they would coordinate efforts to reopen their economies. "Our number one priority when analyzing when best to reopen our economy is the health and safety of our citizens," the governors of Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky said in a joint statement. "We will make decisions based on facts, science, and recommendations from experts in health care, business, labor, and education." The governors said they would focus on sustained reduction of infection rates, improved testing and tracing programs, health-care capacity to face a resurgence, and a plan for social distancing in the workplace. Seven Northeastern states, including COVID-19 epicenter New York, on Thursday extended their lockdowns until May 15.


China's economy contracted in 1st quarter

China's National Bureau of Statistics on Friday reported that its economy shrank by 6.8 percent in the first quarter of 2020, the first quarterly contraction for the world's second largest economy since China began providing quarterly GDP records in 1992. The data was slightly worse than the 6.5 percent decline economists had expected due to damage from the coronavirus pandemic, which was first reported in central China. The outbreak forced Chinese authorities to shut down factories and shopping malls, putting millions of people out of work. China said its industrial production fell by 8.4 percent in the first three months of the year, and retail sales dropped by 19 percent. On a positive note, factory production dropped by less than expected in March, suggesting stimulus efforts were helping to restart parts of the country's economy.


Brazil's health minister fired after coronavirus clash

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday fired his health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, after they clashed over how to fight the spread of the coronavirus. Brazil has more than 29,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,760 deaths from COVID-19, more than any other South American nation. Mandetta publicly chided Bolsonaro for not following social distancing guidelines. Bolsonaro said Mandetta's ouster was part of a "mutual divorce." Bolsonaro stands apart from other world leaders as one of the most outspoken opponents to stay-at-home orders, which he says are too damaging to the economy. He called on Brazilian states to relax their lockdowns. "We need to return to normal, not as fast as possible, but we need to start having some flexibility," he said.


Michael Cohen to be released from prison early due to pandemic

Michael Cohen, President Trump's former personal lawyer, found out Thursday that he would be released from prison early due to the coronavirus pandemic, his lawyer told CNN. Cohen, originally scheduled to be released in November 2021, will finish the remainder of his three-year sentence in home confinement, his lawyer said. Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to tax fraud, campaign finance violations, and lying to Congress. He began serving a three-year sentence at a federal prison in Otisville, New York, last year. Fourteen inmates and seven staff members at the prison have tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus. Before leaving the facility, Cohen must complete a 14-day quarantine. Last month, a federal judge rejected Cohen's request for a reduced sentence or home confinement.


EPA proposes weakening mercury-pollution regulations

The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday released a rule weakening regulations on the release of mercury and other toxic metals from oil and coal-fired power plants. The proposed change was the latest in a series of Trump administration decisions to roll back environmental protections. Several of these moves — such as loosening curbs on automobile tailpipe emissions — have cut back health protections in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. The EPA's proposed rule doesn't eliminate limits on mercury pollution, which has been linked to brain damage, but it changes the way the costs and benefits of reducing the release of the heavy metal are calculated.


Judge rejects Roger Stone's request for new trial

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Thursday denied Roger Stone's request for a new trial. Jackson said lawyers for Stone, a longtime adviser to President Trump, had failed to provide evidence to back up their claims of juror misconduct or provide "any reason" to find there was a miscarriage of justice in the case. "The defendant has not shown that the juror lied; nor has he shown that the supposedly disqualifying evidence could not have been found through the exercise of due diligence at the time the jury was selected," Jackson said. The judge sentenced Stone to 40 months in prison on Feb. 20 for lying to Congress about communications he had with the Trump campaign about WikiLeaks' plans to post documents stolen from Democrats.


Award-winning actor Brian Dennehy dies at 81

Award-winning actor Brian Dennehy has died at 81. Dennehy's daughter Elizabeth Dennehy confirmed the news on Thursday, tweeting he died of natural causes not related to COVID-19. Some of Dennehy's most memorable films include First Blood, Tommy Boy, and Cocoon, and he was also known for his stage work, twice winning the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his roles in Death of a Salesman and Long Day's Journey Into Night. He also won a Golden Globe Award and Screen Actors Guild Award for the television film Death of a Salesman. "Larger than life, generous to a fault, a proud and devoted father and grandfather, he will be missed by his wife Jennifer, family, and many friends," his daughter said.


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