April 17 coronavirus news

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8:37 p.m. ET, April 17, 2020

USDA aide provides a lifeline to farmers, American Farm Bureau says

The American Farm Bureau applauded the USDA Friday for the $19 billion in coronavirus aide that will go to America’s farmers.

“The coronavirus pandemic forced the closing of restaurants, schools and college cafeterias, causing commodity prices to fall off a cliff and serious disruptions to food supply chains. This $16 billion in aid will help keep food on Americans’ tables by providing a lifeline to farm families that were already hit by trade wars and severe weather,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau.

Farmers will receive the $16 billion in funding in the form of direct payment, while the additional $3 billion will be to use to purchase meat, dairy products, fruits and vegetables.

Earlier this week, the American Farm Bureau, in partnership with Feeding America, sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue proposing a USDA run voucher program that would send farm products to food banks while helping farmers and ranchers recoup costs from lost markets, such as restaurants and tourism businesses shuttered by the pandemic. It would also help get farm-fresh products quickly to families in need.

The new aide package provides about $850 million for food bank administrative costs and USDA food purchases, of which a minimum of $600 million will be designated for food purchases, according to USDA.

8:32 p.m. ET, April 17, 2020

Trump says he isn't happy with China

President Trump said Friday that he’s “not happy with China,” suggesting that the country has not been forthcoming in warning the world about the coronavirus.  

Asked whether China should be stripped of the privilege of hosting the 2022 Olympics, Trump referenced the US-China trade deal.

“I want to see what’s happening with China. I want to see how they’re doing on it. Are they fulfilling the deal, the transaction?” Trump said. 

“Let me just put it this way: I’m not happy, okay? I’m not happy,” he added.

“I spoke to them and this could have been shut down a long time ago. They knew it. And we couldn’t get it. To all fairness, World Health (Organization) couldn’t get in,” he continued.

Speaking about WHO, which he suggested got into China earlier than other groups, he said they “didn’t report what was happening.”

Trump's announced on Tuesday that his administration was pausing funding to the WHO while reviewing the group's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. 

8:30 p.m. ET, April 17, 2020

Trump suggests he would back Paycheck Protection Program deal for hospitals

US President Donald Trump speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, in the White House on April 17, in Washington.
US President Donald Trump speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, in the White House on April 17, in Washington. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump said he would back a deal in Congress that would couple money for hospitals with more emergency loans for small businesses, after days of deadlocked talks about whether to approve a clean influx of cash for the Paycheck Protection Program. 

“Hospitals — hospitals have been decimated by this,” Trump said during the coronavirus task force briefing.

On adding payments to hospitals into a PPP boost – something Democrats have pushed, along with other items, to be included alongside money for small business loans – Trump said, “I’m with that all the way.”

“We could also add in to Phase four. Phase four would be hopefully infrastructure,” Trump said.

He was referring to the expected next stimulus bill, which Trump has pushed to include money for rebuilding roads and bridges. 

Talks on Capitol Hill about adding more than $250 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program, which ran out of funding this week after small businesses rushed to secure emergency loans through the Small Business Administration. Republicans have pushed for a clean funding boost, while Democrats have wanted money for hospitals, states and local governments to be included alongside the funding for the SBA program. 

Trump also demanded Democrats return to Washington to approve the money, although House Republicans, and the Republican led Senate are also absent from Washington due to the pandemic.

He accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of being “on vacation." 

Lawmakers from both parties are following guidelines that suggest they shelter in place with their families in their homes around the country and both the House and Senate are holding pro-forma sessions where legislation can be passed by unanimous consent if all members agree. 

8:28 p.m. ET, April 17, 2020

Hundreds gather to protest stay-at-home order in Huntington Beach

A driver waves a sign at other protesters who were demonstrating against stay-at-home orders that were put in place due to the coronavirus outbreak on Friday, April 17, in Huntington Beach, Calif.
A driver waves a sign at other protesters who were demonstrating against stay-at-home orders that were put in place due to the coronavirus outbreak on Friday, April 17, in Huntington Beach, Calif. Mark J. Terrill/AP

Hundreds of protesters gathered Friday in Huntington Beach, a coastal community in California, to demand the reopening of the state's economy, according to the event's Facebook page. 

Many protesters ignored the state’s social distancing guidelines as they hugged and took selfies in an effort to show their opposition to the state's stay-at-home orders.

A large number of people in the crowd waved “Trump 2020” flags and other signage in support for the President’s campaign.

The demonstration included a stream of motorists honking and shouting in support for the protest. Only a handful in the crowd were wearing masks during the gathering.

Approximately two dozen mask-wearing police officers patrolled the event.

Similar protests have garnered attention around the country in other states.

Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Carolina and Utah — states led by both Republican and Democratic governors — have all seen protests in recent days as people grow more concerned about the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. On Friday morning, President Trump said in a series of tweets that states should be liberated.

Trump later defended his tweets, saying the governors are being “too tough.”

8:15 p.m. ET, April 17, 2020

Trump defends tweets calling to "liberate" states

Alex Brandon/AP
Alex Brandon/AP

President Trump addressed his recent tweets calling to “liberate” Virginia, Minnesota and Michigan — three political swing states that have Democratic governors. 

He said the governors who are implementing federal guidelines for stay-at-home orders to deal with the coronavirus are being “too tough.”

On Virginia, he said, "What they've done is very powerful. You know you could get the same result with doing a little bit less." 

He then went off on a tangent about the Second Amendment and claimed without proof that, "They want to take their guns away." Virginia has declared that gun stores are not essential businesses during the pandemic. 

“I think some things are too tough,” Trump said during Friday’s White House press briefing.

Asked whether these states should lift their stay-at-home orders, Trump said, “No, but I think elements of what they’ve done are too much. It’s just too much.”

The President said he wasn’t concerned about protesters spreading the coronavirus among participants attending demonstrations calling for states to reopen.  

“No, these are people expressing their views. I see the way they are and I see the way they’re working and they seem to be very responsible to me, but they’re been treated a little bit rough,” he said.

Watch:

8:06 p.m. ET, April 17, 2020

 Live Nation rolls out plan for canceled concerts

Live Nation, one of the nation's top concert promoters, is unveiling its plan to accommodate fans with tickets to canceled and postponed shows.

Venues hosting concerts will offer fans 150% of their ticket value as "concert cash," and those going to postponed shows will get "concert cash" once they attend.

The program is also offering an option to donate tickets to health care workers.

8:02 p.m. ET, April 17, 2020

Birx says it's unclear US has coronavirus testing capability for phase two reopening

Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, speaks about the coronavirus at the White House, Friday, April 17, in Washington.
Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, speaks about the coronavirus at the White House, Friday, April 17, in Washington. Alex Brandon/AP

Dr. Deborah Birx said during Friday’s briefing that it’s unclear whether the US currently has enough coronavirus testing capacity for phase two of the administration’s guidelines for opening states.

“What we will be doing is monitoring how much we have to use in phase one to really help inform phase two,” Birx said. “The really unknown in this, to be completely transparent, is asymptomatic and symptomatic spread.”

Vice President Mike Pence said the administration is going to continue to scale testing as needed, calling on states to manage testing.

7:48 p.m. ET, April 17, 2020

Pence claims there are enough tests for phase one reopening

Vice President Mike Pence speaks about the coronavirus in the White House on Friday, April 17, in Washington.
Vice President Mike Pence speaks about the coronavirus in the White House on Friday, April 17, in Washington. Alex Brandon/AP

 

Vice President Mike Pence claimed Friday that there are enough tests for states looking to reopen under phase one guidelines. 

“Our best scientists and health experts assess that states today have enough tests to implement the criteria of phase one if they choose to do so,” Pence said.

He reiterated, “Let me say that again: Given the guidance in the President’s new guidelines for opening up America again, states that meet the criteria for going into phase one and then are preparing the testing that is contemplated by going to phase one – our best scientists and health experts assess that today, we have a sufficient amount of testing to meet the requirements of phase one reopening if state governors choose to do that.”

Earlier CNN reported that while some labs say testing capacity is not an issue, others are still reporting shortages. 

While delays in testing – and shortages of testing supplies – have been reported across the country, it’s also possible that a slowdown in the pandemic is responsible for the reported decline in tests.

Currently in the United States, testing is primarily done on those who are symptomatic. While the US is still seeing an increasing number of cases, social distancing measures do seem to be working, limiting transmission of the virus.

Assuming there are enough tests available, that slowdown could explain why fewer people are needing tests at hospitals, doctors’ offices and other sites. Or, doctors may just be ordering fewer tests, perhaps reserving them for only the sickest patients.

If there isn’t widespread availability of testing, though, then the reported decline in cases may be misleading.

In a statement on Wednesday, the American Clinical Laboratory Association – which represents commercial labs such as LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics – said that testing capacity was not an issue.

“ACLA members have now eliminated testing backlogs, and have considerable capacity that is not being used,” the group said. 

“We stand ready to perform more testing and are in close communication with public health partners about ways we can support additional needs.”

Other groups, though, have reported problems. In a Monday letter to the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the Association of American Medical Colleges said labs are facing critical shortages.

“Widespread but uneven shortages in one or more of the essential components for testing have resulted in a situation where few labs are able to maximize the testing capacity of any one machine, platform, or test,” the group said.

It added that “laboratories across the country are working day and night to expand testing capacity but are severely hampered by shortages of needed reagents, swabs for testing, PPE, and specialized equipment designed by companies to be used with their own machines.”

7:42 p.m. ET, April 17, 2020

Hawaii closes all state beaches

A surfer walks out of the ocean on Oahu's North Shore near Haleiwa, Hawaii, on Tuesday, March 31.
A surfer walks out of the ocean on Oahu's North Shore near Haleiwa, Hawaii, on Tuesday, March 31. Caleb Jones/AP

Hawaii Gov. David Ige ordered all state-owned beaches closed Friday as part of the effort to combat coronavirus. 

Residents will still be allowed to swim and surf with social distancing, but cannot sunbathe, picnic, or play games on the sand.

Ige’s order also said recreational boating is limited to two people per boat, and that watercraft should maintain a distance of at least 20 feet. Hiking and fishing trips also are limited to two people at a time, except for relatives who live together.

The new rules are in effect until April 30.