The latest on the coronavirus pandemic.

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted Friday that Congress’ next economic package provide billions for reeling state and local governments, foreshadowing a sharp partisan fight in lawmakers’ continuing response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Nancy Pelosi

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference Friday on Capitol Hill. She said, “There will not be a bill without state and local” aid.  Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

“There will not be a bill without state and local” aid, Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters at the Capitol. Suggesting that Democrats have leverage to address a problem that shows no signs of vanishing soon, she also said, “There will be a bill, and it will be expensive.”

While Pelosi cited no price tag, she said it could be roughly what Congress has already provided for small businesses in previous legislation, which has exceeded $500 billion.

Pelosi’s remarks put her in direct conflict with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. He has expressed opposition to providing more local help, at least for now.

But President Trump has been a wild card, making comments that have wavered between support and skepticism. In addition, some Republican senators and governors have called for more aid for state and local governments.

That suggests an election-season battle in which a compromise might ultimately be necessary.

Trump says he’ll block coronavirus aid for U.S. Postal Service if it doesn’t hike prices

WASHINGTON — President Trump said Friday he would not approve an emergency loan for the U.S. Postal Service if it did not immediately raise its prices for package delivery.

“The Postal Service is a joke,” Trump told reporters, responding to a Washington Post report on the Treasury Department’s plans to extract concessions from USPS in exchange for a line of credit Congress approved to aid the agency during the coronavirus pandemic. “The post office should raise the price (of package delivery) four times.”

Trump recently signed a law that allowed the cash-strapped agency to borrow $10 billion from the Treasury Department. The Post has reported that the White House wants to force changes at the Postal Service as part of the terms of the loan.

Trump confirmed Friday that rate increases would be among those conditions, and that he would not allow Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to approve the loan without them.

“If they don’t raise the price, I’m not signing anything,” he said.

Trump has railed for years against what he sees as mismanagement at the Postal Service, which has been battered by a decline in first-class mail in the internet age but has found profitability with package delivery. The agency’s revenues have plunged about 30 percent during the coronavirus pandemic, though, as business mail has declined.

Package volume jumped 53 percent last week, compared with the same period in 2019, as a homebound nation dives into e-commerce for groceries, prescriptions and household essentials. Packages ordinarily make up just 5 percent of the Postal Service’s volume but account for 30 percent of its revenue. Each package delivery is required by law to pay for a certain portion of the agency’s overhead. Even so, competitors such as UPS and FedEx still contract with Postal Service as a cheaper option for “last mile” deliveries to rural areas too costly for private-sector service.

Trump and his allies have frequently and falsely claimed that higher package rates on internet shipping companies – Amazon, in particular – could ease the Postal Service’s financial troubles. But the move could hurt the agency by artificially raising its prices above those of UPS and FedEx, analysts say.

Former Army Secretary John McHugh, chairman of the Package Coalition advocacy group, said in a statement that Trump’s proposal would raise prices for consumers, small businesses and rural communities.

Read the full story about postal service rates here.

Navy recommends reinstatement of carrier captain fired over coronavirus requests

WASHINGTON — The top Navy officer has recommended the reinstatement of the aircraft carrier captain fired for sending a fraught email to commanders pleading for faster action to protect his crew from a coronavirus outbreak, officials familiar with the investigation said Friday.

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Capt. Brett Crozier, then-commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), addresses the crew in January. The Navy’s top admiral will soon decide the fate of the ship captain who was fired after pleading for his superiors to move faster to safeguard his coronavirus-infected crew. Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Alexander Williams/U.S. Navy via Associated Press

Adm. Mike Gilday recommended that Navy Capt. Brett Crozier be returned to his ship, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the results of an investigation that have not yet been made public.

If approved, his recommendation would end a drama that has rocked the Navy leadership, sent thousands of USS Theodore Roosevelt crew members ashore in Guam for quarantine and impacted the fleet across the Pacific, a region critical to America’s national security interests.

Gilday met with Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Tuesday and with Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday morning to lay out his recommendations. An official says Esper has asked for a delay in any public announcement while he considers the recommendation.

Earlier in the day, Esper’s chief spokesman Jonathan Hoffman had suggested that Esper was going into the matter with an open mind, and said “he is generally inclined to support Navy leadership in their decision.”

The extraordinary episode has captivated a public already overwhelmed by the pandemic. And it has played out as the military copes with the coronavirus by reducing training, scaling back recruiting and halting troop movements even as it deploys tens of thousands of National Guard and other troops to help civilian agencies deal with virus outbreaks across the country.

Crozier was abruptly removed earlier this month by acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, who resigned days later. His return to the ship would reunite him with crew members so upset about his firing that many crowded together on the deck and applauded and chanted his name as he strode off the ship.

As of Friday, 856 sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive for the virus and four are hospitalized. One sailor, who was from Arkansas, has died, and more than 4,200 of the ship’s nearly 5,000 crew members have been moved onto the island for quarantine.

Read the full story about Capt. Brett Crozier here.

Trump aide has long-term vision for ‘temporary’ immigration order

WASHINGTON — Trump senior policy adviser Stephen Miller told White House supporters in a private call this week that the president’s new executive order curbing immigration will usher in the kind of broader long-term changes to American society he has advocated for years, even though the 60-day measures were publicly characterized as a “pause” during the coronavirus pandemic.

Stephen Miller is President Trump’s top immigration adviser. Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

Miller, the chief architect of the president’s immigration agenda and one of his longest-serving and most trusted advisers, spoke to a group of Trump surrogates Thursday in an off-the-record call about the new executive order, which had been signed the night before. Though the White House had seen the move as something that would resonate with President Trump’s political base, the administration instead was facing criticism from immigration hard-liners who were disappointed that the order does not apply to temporary foreigner workers despite Trump pitching it as helping to protect jobs for Americans.

Miller told the group that subsequent measures were under consideration that would restrict guest worker programs, but the “the most important thing is to turn off the faucet of new immigrant labor,” he said, according to a recording obtained by The Washington Post. Miller indicated that the strategy was part of a long-term vision and was not seen only as a stopgap.

“As a numerical proposition, when you suspend the entry of a new immigrant from abroad, you’re also reducing immigration further because the chains of follow-on migration that are disrupted,” said Miller, one of the executive order’s main authors. “So the benefit to American workers compounds with time.”

Miller declined to comment Friday. A White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Trump administration has been trying for years to scrap the family-based U.S. immigration model, which Miller and other restrictionists call “chain migration.” Instead, the White House favors a more restrictive system based on job skills and U.S. labor market demands.

Though Trump described his order this week as a temporary “pause,” he also said it is an open-ended move that will remain in place until he decides the U.S. labor market has sufficiently improved once the coronavirus crisis subsides. He said he would reevaluate after 60 days and could extend the immigration restrictions to help Americans find jobs when states reopen their economies.

Read the full story about Stephen Miller’s call here.

U.S. death toll surpasses 50,000

The coronavirus’s U.S. death toll surged past 50,000 on Friday, marking another grim milestone in the pandemic that has upended life around the globe.

Three months after the nation’s first confirmed case, the highly contagious virus has killed at an alarming rate: Just 10 days ago, the number of recorded deaths stood at 25,000.

Experts have warned that the number of reported fatalities likely underestimates the true toll of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Amid a national debate over how to count the dead, methods have varied widely from state to state. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initially included only those who tested positive for the virus, even with strict limitations on testing.

The Washington Post has been analyzing data from state health agencies to track every known death in the country. Of the 50,024 confirmed fatalities, the majority – 21,283 – have been in New York. But while the state has started to see a decrease in its confirmed daily death counts, other parts of the country are beginning to see a surge.

Even as governors in multiple states eased stay-at-home orders and took other steps to restart their stymied economies, the disease’s rapid spread in both urban and rural areas had led to more than 28,000 deaths outside the epicenter of New York. The second-highest death toll is carried by New Jersey, followed by Michigan, Massachusetts and Illinois.

Every state has recorded fatalities, with clusters of cases appearing in nursing homes, correctional facilities and other settings flung across the nation.

Read the full story on fatalities here.

Trump signs $484 billion measure to aid employers, hospitals

President Donald Trump speaks before signing a coronavirus aid package to direct funds to small businesses, hospitals, and testing on Friday. From left, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Jovita Carranza, administrator of the Small Business Administration, and House Minority Kevin McCarthy of Calif., look on. Associated Press/Evan Vucci

WASHINGTON — President Trump signed a $484 billion bill Friday to aid employers and hospitals under stress from the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 50,000 Americans and devastated broad swaths of the economy.

The bill is the latest effort by the federal government to help keep afloat businesses that have had to close or dramatically alter their operations as states try to slow the spread of the virus. Over the past five weeks, roughly 26 million people have filed for jobless aid, or about 1 in 6 U.S. workers.

Trump thanked Congress for “answering my call” to provide the critical assistance and said it was “a tremendous victory.” But easy passage of this aid installment belies a potentially bumpier path ahead for future legislation to address the crisis.

The measure passed Congress almost unanimously Thursday as lawmakers gathered in Washington as a group for the first time since March 27. They followed stricter social distancing rules while seeking to prove they can do their work despite the COVID-19 crisis.

Lawmakers’ face masks and bandannas added a somber tone to their effort to aid a nation staggered by the health crisis and devastating economic costs of the pandemic.

Luxury hotelier who backed Trump biggest winner of U.S. small-business relief

A Dallas hotel executive and major donor to President Donald Trump has emerged as the biggest winner from the coronavirus bailout for small businesses.

A combined total of $59 million from the small business lending package went to three lodging companies chaired by Monty Bennett, according to regulatory filings. The money went to Braemar Hotels & Resorts, which owns luxury properties including the Ritz-Carlton in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Ashford Hospitality Trust Inc., which owns more than 100 hotels around the country, and the firm that manages both.

The PPP has come under fire after big restaurant chains like Potbelly Corp. and Ruth’s Chris Steak House got loans, while many mom-and-pop firms were left stranded when the initial $349 billion in funding for the program ran out of money last week. The House is expected to vote Thursday on a bill approving an additional $320 billion for the initiative.

The loans to Bennett’s companies underscore how large firms were able to take advantage of the small business program because of a loophole nestled in the bailout package that allowed companies with multiple locations to apply for loans that can convert to grants if they maintain employees and payrolls at certain levels.

That provision was inserted after lobbyists for hotels and restaurants pleaded with lawmakers designing the program, especially Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, for special consideration. The carveout allowed hotels and restaurants to apply for the funds regardless of how many workers they had, so long as each location employed fewer than 500.

Bennett donated $150,000 in the last six months to a fundraising committee for Trump’s reelection campaign and for Republicans, according to Federal Election Commission records. He also gave to Trump in 2016, and has made donations to prominent allies such as House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

FDA issues hydroxychloroquine warning, citing serious effects

The Food and Drug Administration warned Friday that people should not take chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 outside of a hospital or formal clinical trial, citing reports of “serious heart rhythm problems.”

Many of those adverse effects occurred in patients with the virus who were treated with the anti-malaria drugs, often in combination with azithromycin, also known as Z-Pak. President Trump has described such drugs as a potential “game-changer” although results from clinical trials are not yet in to show whether they are effective.

“We will continue to investigate risks associated with the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for COVID-19 and communicate publicly when we have more information,” the FDA wrote.

The adverse events reported include abnormal heart rhythms such as QT interval prolongation, dangerously rapid heart rate called ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation, and in some cases, death, the agency said. The FDA did not say how many deaths have been reported.

Patients who also have other health issues such as heart and kidney disease are likely to be at increased risk of these heart problems when receiving these medicines.

The malaria drugs are not approved for use in COVID-19 patients, but the FDA is allowing hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine products donated to the Strategic National Stockpile to be distributed and used in limited circumstances, such as for certain hospitalized patients with COVID-19, the agency noted.

French court upholds restrictions on Amazon ‘essential’ products for sale

PARIS — A French court on Friday rejected an appeal by the online retail giant Amazon against an earlier ruling that had limited the products the company could sell during France’s coronavirus lockdown.

Amazon had temporarily suspended operations at its French distribution warehouses, after a tribunal in Nanterre outside Paris had ordered the company to sell and deliver only essential items, such as food and medical supplies, until it underwent a risk assessment and bolstered health and safety protections for its employees.

The tribunal in Nanterre slapped Amazon with a daily fine of 1 million euros ($1.2 million) until it complied with the ruling, and the company vowed to appeal. (Amazon chief executive and founder Jeff Bezos also owns The Washington Post).

But on Friday, a court of appeals in Versailles upheld the lower court’s ruling, although it expanded the list of items Amazon could sell and deliver during France’s lockdown period. The court also reduced the fine for unauthorized deliveries to 100,000 euros ($108,000).

Aside from the food and medical supplies, the list now includes home office equipment, technological items, pet supplies, and beauty and wellness products, according to a summary released by France’s Justice Ministry on Friday afternoon.

Stocks open higher on Wall Street at the end of a bumpy week

NEW YORK  — Stocks are opening higher on Wall Street, but not enough to erase the market’s losses for the week.

The S&P 500 rose 0.6% in early trading Friday. Investors were encouraged to see the latest coronavirus relief package pass the House. The bill, which President Donald Trump is expected to sign later Friday, provides $484 billion to employers and hospitals.

The pandemic has already claimed almost 50,000 American lives and 1 in 6 U.S. jobs. The price of oil rose again after cratering earlier this week, but it’s still not nearly high enough to bring relief to the battered U.S. energy sector.

EPA says only use disinfectant on inanimate surfaces

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President Donald Trump and Bill Bryan, head of science and technology at the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday. Associated Press/Alex Brandon

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency is reminding people to only use disinfectant on surfaces.

The EPA issued the update after President Donald Trump suggested it might be helpful to inject disinfectant to combat the coronavirus.

The EPA says, “Never apply the product to yourself or others. Do not ingest disinfectant products.”

William Bryan of the Department of Homeland Security said at a White House briefing on Thursday “emerging results” from new research suggest solar light has a powerful effect in killing the virus on surfaces and in the air.

But he said there was no consideration of internal use of disinfectants. Trump’s hypothesis drew a flood of comments on Twitter.

Read the full story.

For the first time in Spain, more people declared cured than falling ill

MADRID — Authorities hailed that, for the first time since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in Spain, more people are being diagnosed as cured than those falling sick.

On Friday, there were 2,796 new infections confirmed while 3,105 overcame the infection.

“With all the effort that we have done, the evolution of the epidemic is obviously beginning to be where it should be,” said Fernando Simón, the ministry’s health emergency center coordinator.

Spain has recorded 367 new deaths of patients with the coronavirus, to a total of 22,524, as the government mulls the way out of a strict confinement that has extended for more than 40 days.

Health officials from Spain’s 17 regions and the central government were to meet later on Friday with proposals on how to roll back the six-week lockdown. Authorities have said that future steps will be incremental and depend on how regions meet certain health criteria.

South Korea to electronically monitor quarantine scofflaws

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea starting next week will strap electronic wristbands on people who ignore home-quarantine orders in its latest use of tracking technology to control its outbreak.

Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip on Friday said those who refuse to wear the bands after breaking quarantine will be sent to shelters where they will be asked to pay for accommodation.

Officials said around 46,300 people are currently under self-quarantine. The number ballooned after the government began enforcing 14-day quarantines on all passengers arriving from abroad on April 1 amid worsening outbreaks in Europe and the United States.

Although quarantined individuals have been required to download a tracking app that alerts authorities if they leave their homes, some of them have been caught slipping out by leaving their phones behind.

The wristbands will communicate with the phone apps through Bluetooth and alert authorities when people leave home or attempt to remove the bands.

UN official: Some countries are using pandemic as an excuse to stifle free press

GENEVA — The U.N. human rights chief says some states are using the coronavirus outbreak as a pretext to clamp down on independent media, including the arrest and intimidation of journalists.

Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, did not specify which countries have used the pandemic as a “pretext to restrict information and stifle criticism.”

Bachelet noted that some political leaders have aimed their statements against journalists and media workers, and insisted that a free media is always essential but now more than ever during the pandemic.

“This is no time to blame the messenger,” Bachelet said. “Protecting journalists from harassment, threats, detention or censorship helps keep us all safe.”


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