Virus Updates: President Trump Signs Executive Orders on Economic Relief

Nearly 1.2 million laid-off Americans applied for state unemployment benefits last week, making this the 20th straight week that more than 1 million Americans filed for unemployment

NBC Universal, Inc.

The United States on Saturday reached over 162,000 deaths due to the coronavirus pandemic as confirmed cases surpassed 5 million, according to a tally from NBC News.

The news comes as a widely-cited model from the University of Washington predicts U.S. deaths will be close to 300,000 by Dec. 1. Currently, one person dies from the virus every 80 seconds.

Nearly 1.2 million laid-off Americans applied for state unemployment benefits last week, making this the 20th straight week that more than 1 million Americans filed for unemployment. Thursday's report was further evidence that the coronavirus keeps forcing companies to slash jobs just as a critical $600 weekly federal jobless payment has expired.

On Saturday afternoon, President Donald Trump signed executive orders deferring payroll taxes for some Americans and extending unemployment benefits, but at a lower weekly amount, after negotiations on a new coronavirus rescue package collapsed.

Trump accused Democrats of loading up their rescue bill with things unrelated to the coronavirus. “We’ve had it,” he said at a news conference at his country club in Bedminister, New Jersey, as he signed four executive orders.

In addition to deferring payroll taxes for those earning less than $100,000 a year and providing $400 a week in extra benefits for the unemployed, he also put a hold on student loan payments and extended a moratorium on evictions. 

Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.:

Virus Aid Talks Collapse; No Help Expected for Jobless Now

A last-ditch effort by Democrats to revive Capitol Hill talks on vital COVID-19 rescue money collapsed in disappointment at week's end, making it increasingly likely that Washington gridlock will mean more hardship for millions of people who are losing enhanced jobless benefits and further damage for an economy pummeled by the still-raging coronavirus.

President Donald Trump said Friday night he was likely to issue more limited executive orders related to COVID, perhaps in the next day or so, if he can't reach a broad agreement with Congress.

The day's negotiations at the Capitol added up to only "a disappointing meeting,” declared top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, saying the White House had rejected an offer by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to curb Democratic demands by about $1 trillion. He urged the White House to “negotiate with Democrats and meet us in the middle. Don’t say it’s your way or no way.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, "Unfortunately we did not make any progress today.” Republicans said Pelosi was relying on budget maneuvers to curb costs and contended she has overplayed her hand.

Often an impasse in Washington is of little consequence for the public — not so this time. It means longer and perhaps permanent expiration of a $600 per-week bonus pandemic jobless benefit that’s kept millions of people from falling into poverty. It denies more than $100 billion to help schools reopen this fall. It blocks additional funding for virus testing as cases are surging this summer. And it denies billions of dollars to state and local governments considering furloughs as their revenue craters.

Ahead is uncertainty. Both the House and Senate have left Washington, with members sent home on instructions to be ready to return for a vote on an agreement. With no deal in sight, their absence raises the possibility of a prolonged stalemate that stretches well into August and even September.

Speaking from his New Jersey golf club Friday evening, Trump said “if Democrats continue to hold this critical relief hostage I will act under my authority as president to get Americans the relief they need.”

Trump said he may issue executive orders on home evictions, student loan debt and allowing states to repurpose COVID relief funding into their unemployment insurance programs. He also said he'll likely issue an executive order to defer collection of Social Security payroll taxes, an idea that has less support among his Republican allies.

Fauci: States Must Move Quickly to Address COVID-19 Upticks

The nation’s top infectious disease expert said in an online interview Friday that he’s “cautiously optimistic” a COVID-19 vaccine could be developed soon, but acknowledged the chances it would be highly effective are “not great.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a discussion hosted by Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, that he hopes a coronavirus vaccine could be 75% effective but one that's 50% to 60% effective would also be acceptable. He said it’s unlikely early versions could achieve the effectiveness of vaccines for measles, smallpox, polio and other illnesses that have been virtually eradicated.

Key data on the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines in development could come as soon as November, and there's also been progress on developing therapeutics for the virus, he added.

“There’s a lot of action going on,” said Fauci, who has at times has been at odds with President Donald Trump’s pandemic response. “This is going to end.”

But he urged states seeing upticks of as little as 1% to 2% in coronavirus cases need to respond quickly and decisively because the increases never reverse themselves without public health intervention.

Calif. Tops 10,000 Virus Deaths, 3rd Highest in the Nation

California has surpassed 10,000 deaths from the coronavirus, making it the U.S. state with the third-highest deaths since the start of the pandemic.

The figure was reported Friday by Johns Hopkins University, with 10,024 dead since the outbreak began in California in February.

New York has the highest number of deaths at more than 32,000, followed by New Jersey with nearly 16,000. California is the nation’s most populous state with 40 million people.

The first known COVID-related death in the U.S. occurred in early February in the San Francisco Bay Area county of Santa Clara. Nearly half of California’s deaths are in hard-hit Los Angeles County, where more than 4,800 of its 10 million residents have died.

Gov. Gavin Newsom was the first in the nation to issue a stay-home order in mid-March, but the virus began to surge after the Memorial Day holiday as the state relaxed some measures.

The current infection rates are unclear because California’s system is beset by technology problems, delaying the reporting of test results.

Tracking the Outbreak: Where Are Coronavirus Cases Increasing and Decreasing?

As the U.S continues to emerge from coronavirus lockdowns and governors ease restrictions on social gatherings and business activities, several states are seeing an upward trend in the number of COVID-19 cases. See all states here

Source: The COVID Tracking Project
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC

Cuomo Clears New York Schools Statewide to Reopen in the Fall

New York schools can bring children back to classrooms for the start of the school year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday, citing success in battling the coronavirus in the state that once was the U.S. heart of the pandemic.

The Democratic governor's decision clears the way for schools to offer at least some days of in-person classes, alongside remote learning. Students will be required to wear masks throughout school day.

“Everywhere in the state, every region is below the threshold that we established,” Cuomo said during a conference call with reporters. “If there’s a spike in the infection rate, if there’s a matter of concern in the infection rate, then we can revisit."

Many New York school districts have planned to start the year with students in school buildings only a few days a week, while learning at home the rest of the time. Cuomo said individual districts will decide how to instruct students.

More than 1 million public school students in New York City — the largest district in the U.S. — had their last day of in-class instruction on March 13, just as waves of sick people were beginning to hit city hospitals. All schools statewide were closed by March 18.

Could "safe centers" for online learning be an alternative to in-person education this fall? Shardha Jogee, an astronomy professor at the University of Texas at Austin, proposes converting schools and large open spaces into classrooms for students who are unable to learn from home or need meals provided by the school district.

Meals on Wheels Sees Requests 'Skyrocket'

Meals on Wheels agencies across North Texas care for some of the area's most vulnerable population - homebound seniors who need a meal.

And, in Erath County, the coronavirus has brought a rush of clients, NBC DFW reports.

"Our requests have skyrocketed," said Elizabeth Johnson, executive director of the local Meals on Wheels program.

Instead of daily hot meals, though, clients now get a box of frozen meals to last the week. It's a necessary change to limit exposure in the coronavirus crisis.

And they're not alone. Across the country, 80% of the more than 5,000 community-based Meal on Wheels programs have reported that new meal requests have doubled since March. With demand pushing operating costs higher and donations declining, Meals on Wheels is calling on Congress to increase supplemental funding for federal programs that provide critical nutrition assistance to seniors facing hunger during the pandemic, including Older Americans Act (OAA) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Read the full story here.

7-Year-Old Boy Dies of Coronavirus in Georgia

A 7-year-old boy with COVID-19 has become the youngest known person to die in Georgia since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The African-American boy had no other chronic health conditions, according to data released by the state. The case is from Chatham County, which includes Savannah, the Georgia Department of Public Health reported.

The boy’s death comes amid nationwide debate ahead of the school year about the risks that children face for infection or spread of the coronavirus. There is no indication in the health department’s reports about where or when the child contracted the virus.

Georgia’s previous youngest death involved a 17-year-old African American in Fulton County who had undisclosed health issues in addition to COVID-19. More than 30 people in their 20s have died, state data shows.

Georgia recently topped 4,000 deaths and more than 200,000 confirmed cases.

Fla. Man Exposed by Son to Virus Leaves Hospital After Weeks-Long Battle in ICU

A Florida man who spent weeks fighting COVID-19 at a hospital's intensive care unit after being infected by his 21-year-old son who went out with friends was finally allowed to go home Thursday, NBC Miami reports.

“I’m alive! That’s what I am. I feel amazing. I can't even tell you how I feel," John Place, 42, said outside Westside Regional Medical Center. "I’ve been in the hospital for over 40 days, I was on a ventilator for 20 days. This is the most amazing thing. I want to thank all the doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals here at Westside Regional Medical Center. They saved my life.”

In mid-July, Place's wife, Michelle Zymet, detailed the family's struggle with the virus, which had spread among all members, including their 6- and 14-year-old children, after her stepson went out against her wishes to gather with friends and removed his mask while eating and drinking. Days later, he felt cold symptoms and a friend at the get-together told him she had tested positive for the new coronavirus. By then, it already had taken hold in the young man’s household.

Zymet closed her post by making an impassioned plea for people, especially young adults, to take the virus seriously.

Their story highlights the outcome dreaded by authorities who feared the recent surge of cases hitting younger Floridians would spread to older, more vulnerable people.

Place said Thursday he has lots of plans, starting with taking his daughter swimming.

“This is a true miracle," Zymet said. "One hundred percent I believe in the power of prayer.”

US Kids, Parents Perform DIY Tests for Study Probing Rate of Infection Among Children

In a comfy suburb just outside Nashville, a young family swabs their noses twice a month in a DIY study seeking answers to some of the most vexing questions about the coronavirus.

How many U.S. children and teens are infected? How many kids who are infected show no symptoms? How likely are they to spread it to other kids and adults?

“The bottom line is we just don’t know yet the degree to which children can transmit the virus,” said Dr. Tina Hartert of Vanderbilt University, who is leading the government-funded study.

Evidence from the U.S., China and Europe shows children are less likely to become infected with the virus than adults and also less likely to become seriously ill when they do get sick. There is also data suggesting that young children don’t spread the virus very often but that kids aged 10 and up may spread it just as easily as adults. The new study aims to find more solid proof.

“If we don’t see significant transmission within households, that would be very reassuring,” Hartert said.

Some 2,000 families in 11 U.S. cities are enrolled in the DIY experiment, pulled from participants in previous government research. In all, that's 6,000 people. They have no in-person contact with researchers. Testing supplies are mailed to their homes.

They collect their own nasal swabs for COVID-19 tests, and less often blood and stool samples. The specimens are mailed to the study organizers. Participants get text messages asking about symptoms and reminding them to test and they fill out questionnaires.

The study could help determine the safety of in-class education during the pandemic. But results aren’t expected before year’s end.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine Tests Negative Hours After Testing Positive

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has tested negative for a coronavirus infection after testing positive earlier Thursday before he was to meet with President Donald Trump.

The governor’s office says he took the first test as part of standard protocol before meeting Trump at an airport in Cleveland. He had planned to join the president on a visit to the Whirlpool Corp. plant in northwest Ohio.

DeWine has no symptoms but returned to Columbus before Trump landed.

The governor then returned to his home in Cedarville to quarantine for 14 days, but he tweeted Thursday night that he and his wife, Fran, had tested negative.

The Associated Press/NBC
Contact Us