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Texas Cases Jump; AMA Warns on Antibody Tests: Virus Update

Bloomberg News

(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration plans to rebuild its national strategic stockpile to keep on hand enough medical supplies for 90 days. New Jersey will reopen its beaches in time for the Memorial Day holiday. Texas cases and deaths had their biggest one-day rises, two weeks into the state’s reopening.

U.S. unemployment benefit applications remained in the millions for an eighth straight week. Germany’s tax revenue is projected to tumble, raising questions about how much debt it may be willing to take on to revive Europe’s largest economy.

French President Emmanuel Macron has indicated he plans to meet Sanofi executives over the company’s suggestion to give Americans first shot at a successful coronavirus vaccine. The U.S. military will mobilize to administer a vaccine if it becomes available.

Key Developments:

Virus Tracker: Cases top 4.4 million; deaths exceed 301,000Mnuchin seeks to reassure investors after Powell’s warningGoldman expects 25% jobless at peak; Trump’s projectionSecond waves that are hard to trace plague Asia’s recoveryGilead’s remdesivir is a rare example of foresight in pandemicBritain’s plan to get working again doesn’t seem to be working

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus. See this week’s top stories from QuickTake here.

Business Must Reimagine for Post-Virus World: Ex-Google CEO (6:30 p.m. NY)

Former Google Inc. Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt, appointed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to lead a commission on reviving the state’s economy, said businesses and individuals must reimagine their futures as they emerge from the coronavirus lockdown. New York’s emergence from the pandemic will depend on a wider availability and use of online technology in health care, commerce and education, and a change in how people view working in offices and at home, Schmidt said.

“Without significant changes, people won’t be able to work efficiently,” he said in a Bloomberg TV discussion with David Rubenstein, chairman and co-founder of the Carlyle Group. “We have to find ways to get through this Covid crisis before a vaccine is available.”

Texas Cases Jump Two Weeks Into Reopening (5:33 p.m. NY)

Texas saw its deadliest day and its biggest increase in new cases since the start of the outbreak. The second most populous U.S. state added 1,448 new cases to its rolls on Thursday, outpacing the previous peak of 1,441 on April 10, state health department data showed. Fatalities climbed by 58 to more than 1,200, the largest-ever daily increase.

The surge in new cases comes two weeks into Governor Greg Abbott’s controversial moves to reopen the economy and ease restrictions that shuttered vast swaths of commercial and social life for weeks.

CDC Guides on Reopening Bars, Restaurants (4:50 p.m. NY)

New guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advising states on how to reopen bars, restaurants and workplaces was posted on Thursday. It outlines a series of steps workplaces and restaurants should take to keep employees and customers safe before they reopen, including encouraging hand-washing, social distancing and how to check for symptoms of potential Covid-19 cases.

An earlier version was held back by the Trump administration as being too prescriptive, especially for states that have had lesser outbreaks.

Pandemic Spurs House Vote Change (4:40 p.m. NY)

U.S. House Democrats will push aside more than 200 years of precedent and vote on Friday to let lawmakers serve as proxies for colleagues quarantined or otherwise stuck at home during the pandemic. The low-tech version of remote voting is the temporary answer to allay health concerns raised by dozens of lawmakers. Republicans dismiss it as a move to let lawmakers stay home while other Americans are going to work.

Several lawmakers have disease and dozens of others placed themselves in self-quarantine after exposure to someone who was infected. The sister of California Representative Maxine Waters died as a result of an infection.

Apple Helps Suppliers Fight Virus (4:35 p.m. NY)

Apple Inc., whose globe-spanning supply chain has been tested by the pandemic, is helping suppliers reconfigure factories to limit the spread of Covid-19, one of several steps the iPhone maker is taking to protect workers. In an annual supplier responsibility report released Thursday, Apple detailed a range of responses from its partners, including health screenings, deep cleaning, deployment of face masks and hand sanitizer, and limiting the density of work areas.

Trump Mulls Made-in-U.S. Order (4:15 p.m. NY)

The Trump administration is preparing an executive order that would require certain essential drugs and medical treatments for a variety of conditions be made in the U.S. The order comes in light of drug and device shortages during the pandemic. A draft of the order is circulating inside the government and was obtained by Bloomberg News.

“It is critical that we reduce our dependence on foreign manufacturers for essential medicines, medical countermeasures” to “ensure sufficient and reliable long-term domestic manufacturing” that prevents shortages and supplies to “mobilize our nation’s public health industrial base” when needed, says the nine-page draft.

U.S. Cases Rose 1.6%, Below 7-Day Average (4 p.m. NY)

U.S. cases rose 1.6% from the day before to 1.4 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. That was below the average daily increase of 1.8% over the past week. Deaths rose to 85,066.

New York reported 157 deaths, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo. That makes it the fourth day in a row that the toll was below 200.Florida reported 43,210 cases, up 1.9% from a day earlier, according to the state’s health department, compared with an average increase of 1.6% in the previous seven days.. Deaths rose 2.6% to 1,875.California’s cases increased 2.8% to 73,164, while deaths increased 3.3% to 3,032, according to the state’s website.Texas posted a second straight day of above-average case increases, rising 3.4% to 43,851, according to state health department figures. The average over the past week is 3%. Deaths climbed 5%, the biggest one-day jump since April 30. About a quarter of the more than 1,200 deaths were in the Houston region.

AMA Warns on Antibody Tests (3 p.m. NY)

The American Medical Association said neither doctors nor the general public should use coronavirus antibody tests to determine whether someone is protected from the pathogen.

The diagnostics are designed to pick up signs that the human immune system has successfully fought the novel infection, a step many scientists believe will confer some measure of immunity. The AMA said given the uncertainties surrounding the tests -- including about their accuracy -- medical and safety decisions shouldn’t be made based on those assumptions.

Questions have swirled around the accuracy of many of the more than 100 tests available, often imported from around the world by little-known distributors, that were rushed onto the market as the outbreak exploded. U.S. regulators initially allowed them and required little evidence from manufacturers, then subsequently put some requirements in place as criticism of the approach mounted.

Physicians should use only those tests that have been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, of which there have been about 12 to date, the AMA said. Even then, they should only be used to determine how broadly the virus has moved through the population and for specific information like whether someone can donate convalescent plasma.

Quarter of U.S. Restaurants Will Fail: OpenTable (2:36 p.m. NY)

A quarter of all U.S. restaurants will go out of business as a result of quarantines that battered the food-service industry, according to a forecast by OpenTable. Total reservations and walk-in customers from OpenTable’s network of more than 54,000 restaurants were down 95% on May 13 from a year ago, according to the data. Take-out and deliveries are excluded.

The data also show growing signs that patrons are willing to dine out in states like Arizona and Texas, where it’s allowed, though the numbers are still far below where they were last year.

Delta Retires Biggest Aircraft (2:20 p.m. NY)

Delta Air Lines Inc. will retire all 18 of its biggest aircraft, the Boeing 777, by year-end and is warning pilots of massive overstaffing amid the collapse in travel demand caused by the pandemic. Delta said it would have 7,000 more pilots than needed by the fourth quarter, or about half the aviator corps. The carrier will rely on “more fuel-efficient and cost-effective” Airbus SE A350-900 and A330 planes to serve long routes, the airline said.

N.J. to Open Beaches But Not Rides (1:20 p.m. NY)

New Jersey beaches will be open on May 22, in time for the Memorial Day weekend, with social-distance guidelines and admission limitations in place, Governor Phil Murphy said.

Playgrounds, rides, arcades, games, water fountains, picnic areas and water-play equipment will remain shut, the governor said in a tweet. “The Shore is central to our Jersey identity and we want to ensure that families can safely enjoy it this summer,” he said.

The state’s new cases rose 0.9% on Thursday, below the prior seven-day average of 1.02%. New infections increased 1,216, for a total of 142,704.

Trump Seeks 90 Days of Supplies (12:40 p.m. NY)

President Donald Trump’s administration plans to keep 90 days of medical supplies on hand to help gird against future flare-ups of the outbreak.

The Strategic National Stockpile will maintain the supplies while additional surge manufacturing is built up, a senior administration official said Thursday. The stockpile will include testing supplies that weren’t maintained in the past.

The stockpile had 13 million medical-quality N-95 masks when the pandemic hit. The government aspires to have 1 billion, with 300 million anticipated by fall. It had 2 million gowns at the start of the pandemic and expects that to grow to as many as 7 million.

Alcoa CEO: ‘No Clarity’ on Recovery (12:30 p.m. NY)

Alcoa Corp. Chief Executive Officer Roy Harvey told a virtual conference that too much uncertainty remains in global economies to feel comfortable saying the situation is improving from the pandemic. Aluminum gluts are now growing beyond China, which Harvey said is oversupplied, and this will further weigh on prices.

“I don’t think we’ve yet got the clarity, nor do we have the orders on the books, to signal that there is a definitive recovery coming,” he said. Alcoa last month said it would curtail production at one U.S. plant, marking the first major regional move to cut production.

Italy Cases, Deaths Rise (12:05 p.m. NY)

Italy registered an increase of new cases and the most daily fatalities in seven days on Thursday, as the government prepares to further ease a lockdown starting May 18, with shops as well as bars and restaurants expected to reopen on a regional basis.

Civil protection authorities reported 992 cases -- the most since Tuesday -- compared with 888 a day earlier, and raising the total to 223,096. Daily fatalities rose to 262 from 195 on Wednesday, with a total of 31,368.

Moscow to Give Free Antibody Tests (11:50 a.m. NY)

Moscow, which has over half of Russia’s confirmed cases, will begin free antibody tests Friday in a program Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said could lead to easing of a lockdown in place since late March.

The city will have the capacity for 200,000 daily tests by the end of May, Sobyanin wrote on his blog. Randomly picked residents will be tested as officials check the level of collective immunity. Moscow has 130,716 cases, although on state-run Rossiya-24 Thursday the mayor said there are significantly more infections. Last week, he estimated about 300,000 cases in Moscow.

Ivory Coast Lifts Abidjan Curfew (11:15 a.m. NY)

Ivory Coast will lift a curfew in its main city, Abidjan, and let restaurants and bars reopen from Friday. The state of emergency will remain in place, but schools will reopen on May 25 and borders on May 31, Patrick Achi, secretary-general of the presidency, told reporters Thursday. Ivory Coast had 1,857 confirmed cases as of Wednesday, with 21 deaths.

Florida Cases Rise 1.9% (11:09 a.m. NY)

Florida reported 43,210 Covid-19 cases on Thursday, up 1.9% from a day earlier, compared with an average increase of 1.6% in the previous seven days. Deaths among Florida residents reached 1,875, an increase of 2.6%.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is set to address the pandemic at a press conference at noon local time.

Amazon Drone Unit to Make Masks (10:45 a.m. NY)

Amazon.com Inc. is mass-producing face shields for health-care workers using engineering tools and expertise borrowed from its drone-delivery unit. Brad Porter, a vice president with the robotics group, said in a blog post Thursday he expects to list, on the website, the reusable shields at a significantly lower price than models currently available.

Amazon’s drone engineering facilities in Washington state are making the coverings. At one location, a machine that normally cuts carbon fiber for drone parts is being used to slice screens for the face shields.

Trump Backs Tesla Reopening (9:30 a.m. NY)

U.S. President Donald Trump said Tesla Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk is “doing the right thing” by restarting work at the carmaker’s Fremont, California, factory in defiance of local stay-at-home rules. “I’m all for him,” Trump said on the Fox Business Channel. A police lieutenant visited the plant late Wednesday to view employee screening and physical-distancing measures, and the findings will be presented to the Alameda County health office, which will determine Tesla’s compliance, a police spokeswoman said.

France’s Restaurant King Says Industry Needs Rescue (9:47 a.m. NY)

Olivier Bertrand -- owner of more than 850 eateries, from the Burger King chain in France to famed Parisian brasseries -- wants a rescue plan for the country’s restaurant sector, one of the most-hit from the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are very worried about the current situation and about what the future holds,” Bertrand told the French TV channel BFM Business in an interview on Thursday, commenting on a letter sent to Macron’s government requesting an aid package.

Biggest Ultramarathon Canceled, First Time Since War (9:29 a.m. NY)

The organizers of the world’s biggest ultramarathon have canceled the event for the first time since World War II. The Comrades Marathon, due to take place on June 14 in South Africa, has been added to the list of sporting events around the globe scrapped due to the pandemic.

Germany’s Tax Income to Tumble $106 Billion on Virus Fallout (9 a.m. NY)

With factories, restaurants and shops forced to shut to contain the disease, Germany’s overall tax income for 2020 is expected to be 98.6 billion euros ($106 billion) lower than an estimate six months ago, the Finance Ministry said on Thursday. The federal government’s shortfall is projected at 44 billion euros, with states and municipalities also taking a hit.

“Thanks to the good budgetary policy of recent years, the corona crisis can be managed financially,” Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said. “The next step is to take targeted measures to get the economy going again.”

EU Justice Chief Backs Apple-Google Tracing System (8:08 a.m. NY)

The European Union’s justice chief threw his weight behind a Covid-19 contact tracing system that would be supported by a tool jointly developed by Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google.

EU nations are using apps based on different methods. Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders told the European Parliament that he preferred a “decentralized approach” that stores less data on back-end servers.

Sberbank Recruits Employees for Russian Vaccine Trial (8:08 a.m. NY)

Russia’s state-owned Sberbank PJSC appealed to employees for help in a Covid-19 vaccine trial scheduled to start next month.

Sberbank asked for volunteers who meet certain criteria to take part in testing of a vaccine developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, according to a copy of an email sent from the bank’s human resources department and confirmed by several employees.

Trump Targets China (7:45 a.m. NY)

President Trump told Fox Business that China will try to steal intellectual property and get a Covid-19 vaccine first, but the U.S. can prevent it. “We can stop them. They’re going to try doing it. I mean you can also stop doing business with them, that’s one thing,” Trump said.

“They’ve always been doing it, and they were never called. Now they’re being called out all the time with me,” he said about China and IP theft.

Trump said he doesn’t want to talk to Chinese President Xi Jinping right now and mused about eliminating the largest trading relationship in the world. Asked whether he had spoken to Xi recently, Trump said that they have “a very good relationship” but “right now, I don’t want to speak to him. I don’t want to speak to him.”

Xi Calls for Stronger Virus Control in Northeast (7:28 a.m. NY)

Chinese President Xi Jinping called for stronger virus control measures in the northeastern provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang, which recently saw an increase in cases and announced a partial lockdown of some cities, state broadcaster CCTV reported. The Chinese capital Beijing should also strengthen virus control measures during the annual National People’s Congress sessions, Xi said.

British Airways Owner Won’t Delay 12,000 Job Cuts (7:13 a.m. NY)

British Airways owner IAG SA said it intends to go ahead with plans to cut up to 12,000 jobs, while Chief Executive Officer Willie Walsh castigated the government’s handling of the crisis. The decision to quarantine travelers, along with Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s statement that “big, lavish international holidays” likely won’t be possible this summer “have seriously set back recovery plans for our industry,” Walsh said in a letter to the chairman of the U.K.’s transport committee.

IAG remains committed to its restructuring, Walsh said in the letter dated Wednesday. He had faced a grilling from lawmakers on Monday over plans to permanently slash British Airways’ workforce rather than take advantage of the government furlough scheme.

BOE Not Considering Negative Rates Right Now (7:12 a.m. NY)

The Bank of England isn’t currently considering using negative interest rates, Governor Andrew Bailey said, a day after the U.S. central bank chief also pushed back against the idea. The pandemic has plunged the U.K. economy into what may be its deepest recession in more than three centuries, and BOE policy makers have indicated that more quantitative easing is likely.

“It is not something that we are currently planning for or contemplating,” Bailey said at an FT web conference Thursday. Such a move would be a major communications challenge and would prove difficult for banks, he said. Still, “it’s always wise, and particularly in these circumstances, not to rule anything out forever.”

U.K. government borrowing looks on course to exceed 300 billion pounds ($366 billion) in the current fiscal year, according to the latest forecasts from the nation’s fiscal watchdog. The Office for Budget Responsibility said the budget deficit for 2020-21 could total 298.4 billion pounds, a post-war high of 15.2% of GDP.

Trump Expects More Than 100,000 U.S. Virus Deaths (6:13 a.m. NY)

“We’re going to lose over 100,000 perhaps in this country,” President Trump said about coronavirus deaths in an interview on Fox Business. Trump on Wednesday accused the nation’s top infectious disease official, Anthony Fauci, of wanting to “play all sides of the equation” with congressional testimony Tuesday that warned reopening the country too quickly could lead to coronavirus case flare ups.

So far, more than 84,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the U.S., making it the worst-hit country in the world. The military is now being mobilized to administer a vaccine, if one is available, “rapidly” by end of year, Trump said in the interview. “I think we’re going to have a vaccine by the end of the year,” he said, adding he expects to focus on giving vaccine to nursing home residents, other vulnerable people first.

The President also said said he is “very disappointed” in China amid the coronavirus pandemic. The relationship between the two countries has soured after they signed a phase-one trade agreement, with Trump accusing China of hiding information on how the outbreak started.

Tokyo to Stay Under Emergency Even as Japan Eases (6:12 a.m. NY)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will maintain a state of emergency for Tokyo and Osaka due to the coronavirus while lifting it for 39 of the country’s 47 prefectures earlier than scheduled, as infection cases have waned. Abe said the government will immediately start work on a second extra budget to aid people and businesses reeling from the effects of the pandemic. The plan will include subsidies for rents and raise the maximum subsidy for furloughed workers to 15,000 yen ($140) a day, he said.

The government will evaluate next week if it can release the remaining areas before the declaration ends on May 31, which could help Japan re-activate more of its virus-battered economy.

Hungary May Lift Emergency by June (6 a.m. NY)

Hungary may be in a position to lift a controversial state of emergency near the end of June if the spread of the coronavirus continues to ease, cabinet minister Gergely Gulyas said. The country has started lifting restrictions outside of Budapest, with restaurants and hotels returning to full operations next week.

Parliament had in March handed Prime Minister Viktor Orban the right to rule by decree indefinitely, effectively putting the European Union democracy under his sole command for as long as he sees fit. Orban’s decision, ostensibly to fight the virus, has raised alarm in the EU about whether governments may use the pandemic as a pretext to undermine democracy. The European Union’s executive arm has said member states should start phasing out emergency powers in line with steps being taken to ease restrictions.

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