Trump, Kemp on Georgia; HHS vaccine official out

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Some states are moving slowly towards reopening their economies while others are moving more quickly to reopen.

USA TODAY

The House takes up another big stimulus package Thursday, and the NFL draft, albeit virtual, will put sports back in the spotlight after more than a month on the sidelines, benched by fears the teams and crowds would spread the coronavirus.

“For more than 90, 95% of the players, it’s always been a virtual draft,” said agent Leigh Steinberg, adding that only the top players attended the proceedings in the past.

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

The bill’s potential passage comes as states, such as Georgia and Florida, are slowly beginning to reopen their economies. President Trump was critical of Georgia’s aggressive plans to reopen some businesses including spas, salons and tattoo parlors. 

“I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree, strongly, with his decision to open certain facilities,” Trump told reporters Wednesday. But Trump also said Kemp “must do what he thinks is right.”

The virus has killed more than 184,000 people globally. More than 2.6 million confirmed cases have been reported, including over 842,000 in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University data. There are over 46,000 deaths reported in the U.S.

Our live blog is being updated throughout the day. Refresh for the latest news, and get updates in your inbox with The Daily Briefing. More headlines:

Unemployment claims continue to smash records

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

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

– Charisse Jones

House set to approve $484 billion stimulus redux

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

– Michael Collins and Christal Hayes

NFL draft puts sports back in spotlight

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

Protesters say issue is economic, not political

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

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

– John Fritze, Joey Garrison and David Jackson

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

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

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

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

– Savannah Behrmann

Stocks gain as oil prices rally

U.S. stocks showed modest gains Thursday’s opening bell after big gains Wednesday, when the S&P 500 rose 2.3% to 2,799.31. Europe and Asia also saw gains, though not as large. Treasury yields inched higher in a sign of a bit less pessimism in the market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 456.94 points, or 2%, to 23,475.82, and the Nasdaq was up 2.8%. There was good news Thursday for oil companies: Oil prices, which collapsed due to the economic shutdown, showed signs of a rally Thursday. 

Hot Pockets heiress wants to serve prison time at home

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

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

HHS vaccine official says he was ousted over drugs Trump touted

A Health and Human Services official helping to develop a coronavirus vaccine said Wednesday that he was removed from his post because he questioned the value of drugs being pushed by President Donald Trump.

“Sidelining me in the middle of this pandemic and placing politics and cronyism ahead of science puts lives at risk and stunts national efforts to safely and effectively address this urgent public health crisis,” Rick Bright said in a statement calling for an Inspector General’s investigation.

Bright, who until this week was director of the HHS Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), said he “resisted efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections,” according to the statement issued by the law firm Katz, Marshall & Banks.

– David Jackson

Trump disagrees with Georgia governor’s reopening plan

President Donald Trump was critical of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to move quickly to reopen parts of the state’s economy but said the final call belongs to the governor. 

“I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree, strongly, with his decision to open certain facilities,” Trump told reporters, saying the state’s coronavirus case numbers don’t meet the threshold needed to reopen certain businesses under the White House’s guidelines.

However, Trump added that Kemp must do “what he thinks is right.” A spokesman for Kemp did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Kemp, a Trump ally, announced a plan this week that would allow nail salons, massage parlors, bowling alleys and gyms to open Friday. Church services can resume this weekend, and restaurants and movie theaters can follow suit in limited ways starting on Monday.

– David Jackson and John Fritze

Outbreak could prompt ‘hunger pandemic’ 

The coronavirus outbreak threatens to exacerbate existing global food shortage crises to create a “hunger pandemic,” the head of the United Nations World Food Program warned. David Beasley, the program’s executive director, said during a virtual session of the U.N. Security Council that the COVID-19 pandemic will leave more than a quarter of a billion people facing acute hunger by the end of the year. Beasley called for a “global ceasefire” and for the parties engaged in conflicts around the world to give the WFP “swift and unimpeded humanitarian access” to all vulnerable populations.

“If we don’t prepare and act now – to secure access, avoid funding shortfalls and disruptions to trade – we could be facing multiple famines of biblical proportions within a short few months,” Beasley said.

– William Cummings

Bloomberg to lead contact tracing for New York, New Jersey, Connecticut

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has volunteered to help develop and implement a three-state contact tracing program for Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday. The program requires significant manpower to identify infected patients and trace new potential cases. Cuomo said the state effort “will literally need thousands” of tracers. New York will also partner with Johns Hopkins and Vital Strategies for the tracing operation. 

“He has tremendous insight both governmentally and from the private sector,” Cuomo said. “Remember his company, Bloomberg, they went through the China closedown, the European closedown, opened up, so he has had quite a bit of experience in this area.”

More coronavirus news and information from USA TODAY:Pet cats in New York have first known cases among domestic animals in U.S.

Two pet cats in New York state have tested positive for the coronavirus, marking the first confirmed cases in companion animals in the U.S., federal officials said Wednesday.

The cats, which had mild respiratory illnesses and are expected to recover and are in different parts of the state, are thought to have contracted the virus from people in their households or neighborhoods, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. There had previously been cases of infected tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo. 

U.S. authorities say that while it appears some animals can get the virus from people, there’s no indication the animals are transmitting it to humans.

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