U.S. Cases Up 1.8%; Trump Pushes to Open Churches: Virus Update

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U.S. Cases Up 1.8%; Trump Pushes to Open Churches: Virus Update
Doctors and nurses work with patients in the Covid-19 ICU at the Emilio Ribas Institute of Infectious Disease hospital in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photographer: Jonne Roriz/Bloomberg)

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump declared houses of worship as essential and directed governors to let them open “right now,” even though legal experts said he lacks the authority to override stay-at-home orders.

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said it may be time to consider a cautious reopening of the economy. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said two more regions, including Long Island and Westchester County, could open next week if they meet certain metrics.

Oxford University and AstraZeneca started recruiting for advanced human studies of one of the fastest-moving experimental vaccines, while a Russian institute said it used laboratory staff in a successful unofficial test on a potential vaccine.

Key Developments:

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U.S. Cases Up 1.8%; Trump Pushes to Open Churches: Virus Update

U.K. Police Question Johnson Aide (5:37 p.m. NY)

Boris Johnson’s chief adviser was interviewed by police for potentially breaking the U.K. government’s lockdown rules when he self-isolated with coronavirus symptoms. Police spoke to Dominic Cummings after he was seen more than 250 miles (400 kilometers) from his London home shortly after he went into isolation at the end of March -- a time when the prime minister and Health Secretary Matt Hancock had both tested positive.

At the time, U.K. citizens were under orders not to travel, and to stay at home. Cummings, a divisive behind-the-scenes figure within the administration, lives in London while his parents live in Durham, in northern England.

Peru Continues Reopening Economy (5:15 p.m. NY)

Peru authorized more businesses to reopen, including hairdressers, electricians and online clothes retailers along with mining, fishing and construction companies that were cleared to reopen this month. The lockdown, which was set to expire Sunday, will continue through June 30, President Martin Vizcarra said.

Peru is battling South America’s biggest coronavirus outbreak after Brazil, with total cases surpassing 100,000 this week. Strict lockdown measures in place since mid-March have taken a heavy toll on the economy, with economic activity slumping 16% in March and more than a million jobs lost in Lima in the three months to April.

California to Issue Religious Guidance (4:45 p.m. NY)

California Governor Gavin Newsom said he’ll issue guidelines for reopening places of worship no later than Monday. In-person religious gatherings have so far been prohibited as the nation’s most populous state slowly lifts restrictions on residents.

“We take the issue very, very seriously and to heart, and we’ve been very aggressive in trying to put together guidelines that will do justice to people’s health and their fundamental need and desire to practice their faith,” Newsom said at his daily briefing. President Donald Trump said earlier Friday that he would override governors who fail to reopen places of worship this weekend, without explaining what authority he had to do so.

Newsom also said he was days away from issuing plans on reopening salons, barbershops and casinos.

N.Y. Calls off Car Show (4:30 p.m. NY)

Organizers of the New York auto show who had postponed the event to August are now calling it off for this year. “Because of the uncertainty caused by the virus, we feel it would not be prudent to continue with the 2020 show,” Mark Schienberg, president of the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, said in a statement.

The annual event’s traditional venue, the Javits Convention Center in New York City, is being used as a field hospital. That has forced organizers of the auto show to abandon a summer show and instead push it to next April.

CDC Cites Choirs, Collection Plate in Guidance (4:15 p.m. NY)

Religious groups should consider suspending or limiting choirs or singing during services and avoid passing a collection plate, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in guidance issued hours after Trump demanded governors immediately open houses of worship. “The act of singing may contribute to transmission of Covid-19, possibly through emission of aerosols,” the CDC warned.

Churches should stay in contact with local and state officials as reopening decisions are made, and provide protection for staff or congregants who are at higher risk of infection. The guidance encouraged hand washing, use of face coverings and increased cleaning and disinfection measures.

“The information offered is non-binding public health guidance for consideration only; it is not meant to regulate or prescribe standards for interactions of faith communities in houses of worship,” the CDC said.

U.S. Cases Increase 1.8% (4 p.m. NY)

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. increased 1.8% as compared to the same time yesterday to 1.59 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. That’s above the 1.5% average of the psat week. Deaths rose 1.7% to 95,490.

  • New York cases rose 0.5% to 358,154, in line with the average increase over the past seven days, according to the state’s health department.
  • Florida cases rose 1.6% to 49,451 on Friday, compared with an average increase of 1.7% in the previous seven days, according to data from the state’s health department. Deaths rose 2.1% to 2,190.
  • Cases in California rose 2.6% to 88,444 while deaths increased 2.5% to 3,630, according to the state’s website.

Cases Reach All African Nations: WHO (3:15 p.m. NY)

Every nation in Africa now has coronavirus cases, as the continent’s infection total exceeds 100,000, the World Health Organization said. The first Africa case was reported 14 weeks ago.

Africa’s mortality rate has been low, with 3,100 confirmed deaths. By comparison, when cases reached 100,000 in Europe, deaths topped 4,900, WHO said. Early analysis suggests the lower mortality rate may reflect that Africa is the youngest continent, with more than 60% of the population under age 25. In Europe nearly 95% of deaths occurred in those older than 60.

Cases continue to rise and while overall it took 52 days to reach the first 10,000 cases, it took only 11 days for Africa to move from 30,000 to 50,000 cases, WHO said.

California Cases Rise 2.6% (2:53 p.m. NY)

California’s confirmed cases climbed 2.6%, above the seven-day average of 2.37%, to a total of 88,444. There were 88 additional deaths, a 2.5% increase, for a total of 3,630.

Trump Orders Churches Reopened (2:18 p.m. NY)

President Donald Trump declared churches, synagogues and mosques to be essential services and ordered them opened immediately. State governors, whose stay-at-home orders precluded large gatherings for religious services, must let churches open this weekend, he said, though legal experts said he doesn’t have the authority to override state laws.

“The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now,” Trump said in a White House statement.

Religious organizations have been notable sites of outbreaks. In mid-March, a Bible study group meeting was tied to an outbreak of 35 confirmed cases in a rural county in Arkansas, according to a CDC report Tuesday.

Ireland Mulls Traveler Isolation (1:30 p.m. NY)

Ireland reported 115 new cases, the most in a week, ending a six-day stretch of fewer than 100 daily infections. There were 11 new deaths. Ireland said it will force travelers arriving in the country to detail their whereabouts for the first 14 days of their stay and is considering whether to force travelers to self-isolate for two weeks. The country has 1,592 deaths and 24,506 cases.

Fauci: Time to Look at Cautious Reopening (1 p.m. NY)

Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases, said it may be time to begin to “seriously”’ look at reopening the economy in a cautious way.

“I don’t want people to think that any of us feel that staying locked down for a prolonged period of time is the way to go,” Fauci said in a CNBC interview. Staying closed for too long may cause “irreparable damage,” said Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force.

N.Y. Adds 2 Regions to Reopen (12:40 p.m. NY)

Long Island and the Mid-Hudson region -- including Westchester County -- are on track to reopen, provided deaths continue to fall and contact-tracing targets are met, Governor Andrew Cuomo said. The state had 109 deaths on May 21, for a total of 23,192.

With those areas, nine of 10 New York regions will have begun phased-in restarts, after more than seven weeks on lockdown. New York City still has met only four of seven metrics, due largely to a lack of capacity at city hospitals. It also must continue to build up its number of tracers, according to state data.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is moving toward a first phase of reopening, focusing on construction, wholesale distribution and curbside retail, by the middle of June.

U.K. to Fine Quarantine Violators (12:30 p.m. NY)

Passengers arriving in the U.K. will be forced into quarantine for two weeks and face fines of 1,000 pounds ($1,200) if they break the rules, Home Secretary Priti Patel said.

The plan, starting June 8, is designed to stop travelers introducing the virus after becoming infected overseas, and is likely to have a major impact on the aviation industry’s attempts to recover from the lockdown. The measures will be reviewed every three weeks, along with the rest of the government’s response.

“Now we are past the peak of this virus, we must take steps to guard against imported cases,” Patel said.

Italy’s Deaths, New Cases Remain Low (12:10 p.m. NY)

Italy’s new cases remained below 1,000 for a 10th day on Friday, as health authorities said the epidemic’s curve is consistently descending in all regions, including Lombardy, the hardest-hit area. Authorities reported 652 cases, up from 642 a day earlier, for a total of 228,658. Daily fatalities were 130, down from 156 on Thursday, bringing the death toll to 32,616.

Miami-Dade Sets Beach Opening (11:57 a.m. NY)

Miami-Dade, Florida’s most populous county and home to Miami Beach, is targeting June 1 to reopen its famed seashore, the next major step for the region to emerge from its shutdown.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s office said he agreed on the date in a virtual meeting Friday with mayors and city managers from communities on the coast. Officials will meet this weekend to craft rules for reopening, and meet with Gimenez on Tuesday.

Miami-Dade began a phased reopening this week, but tourism has remained essentially shuttered.

N.J. Eases Outdoor Crowd Limits (11:55 a.m. NY)

New Jersey will permit outdoor gatherings of 25 people, up from 10, Governor Phil Murphy said. Indoor gatherings will still be limited to 10 people, he said at a news conference in Trenton. The state reported 146 new deaths, bringing the toll 10,985. An additional 1,394 new cases were reporting, pushing the total to 152,719, Murphy said.

China Vaccine Shows Promise: Lancet (11:20 a.m. NY)

An experimental vaccine developed by CanSino Biologics of China was safe and generated an immune response in an early study in humans.

The vaccine stimulated production of both antibodies that can stop infection along with immune T-cells, according to a report Friday in The Lancet medical journal. Further research is needed to show its effectiveness against the virus, according to the study funded by CanSino and conducted by researchers from the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology and other organizations.

“The challenges in the development of a Covid-19 vaccine are unprecedented, and the ability to trigger these immune responses does not necessarily indicate that the vaccine will protect humans from Covid-19,” said Wei Chen, a professor at the Beijing institute that carried out the study, in the report.

Infants Seen at Risk From Vaccine Disruption (11:14 a.m. NY)

As the coronavirus pandemic disrupts routine visits to doctors’ offices, more than 80 million children under the age 1 are at risk of life-threatening diseases like polio and measles, according to the world’s top health agencies.

Routine vaccinations of children have been substantially hindered in at least 68 countries, according to data from the World Health Organization; UNICEF; the Sabin Vaccine Institute; and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which helps immunize half the world’s children against diseases.

The agencies said Friday that immunization services “have been disrupted on a global scale that may be unprecedented since the inception of expanded programs on immunization (EPI) in the 1970s.” They called upon countries to join an effort to resume campaigns against vaccine-preventable diseases and made recommendations on how to safely deliver shots amid the pandemic.

Florida Cases Rise 1.6% (11:10 a.m. NY)

Florida reported 49,451 Covid-19 cases on Friday, up 1.6% from a day earlier, compared with an average increase of 1.7% in the previous seven days. Deaths among Florida residents reached 2,190, an increase of 2.1%.

The report marked a return toward the recent mean, after Thursday’s release showed the sharpest percentage uptick in case numbers since May 1. Florida is coming to the end of a week in which Miami-Dade and Broward, its most populous counties, joined the rest of the state in a phased reopening.

Speaking Friday in Jacksonville, Governor Ron DeSantis said he’s lifting restrictions on youth activities including sports and summer camps.

Cyprus Reopens Foreign Flights (10:40 a.m. NY)

Cyprus will start allowing direct flights from some European countries on June 9, and it plans to end a mandatory 14-day quarantine for arriving visitors on Monday and reopen hotels on June 1.

In the first stage, Cyprus will permit flights from Greece, Malta, Bulgaria, Norway, Austria, Finland, Slovenia, Hungary, Israel, Denmark, Germany, Slovakia and Lithuania. A second phase on June 20 will add Switzerland, Poland, Romania, Croatia, Estonia and the Czech Republic.

Malaria Drugs Linked to Death, Heart Risk (9:30 a.m. NY)

The antimalaria drugs touted by U.S. President Donald Trump to treat Covid-19 patients were linked to an increased risk of death and heart ailments in a study published in The Lancet medical journal. Trump said Monday that he had taken the drug for about a week.

Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine didn’t benefit the patients either alone or in combination with an antibiotic, according to the study based on records of 15,000 people treated with the antimalarials and one of two antibiotics often paired with the drug. Treatment with any combination of the four drugs was associated with a higher risk of death than seen in 81,000 patients who didn’t receive them, the study found.

Puerto Rico Cases Surpass 3,000 (8:14 a.m. NY)

Confirmed coronavirus cases in Puerto Rico surpassed the 3,000 mark on Friday, as the Health Department said an additional 117 people had tested positive. This is the third time this month that more than 100 cases were detected in a 24-hour period.

According to government figures, the pandemic has now affected 3,030 people and 126 have died. The figures come as the commonwealth of 3.2 million people pushes ahead with plans to reopen the economy after declaring a broad lock-down on March 16. On Tuesday, malls, retail outlets and restaurants will be allowed to resume operations.

Russia Tests Covid-19 Vaccine on Researchers (8:10 a.m. NY)

A Russian government research institute said it conducted successful unofficial tests on a potential coronavirus vaccine. Laboratory staff who volunteered to receive the vaccine at the Gamaleya epidemiology institute in Moscow had no side effects and are healthy, said its director, Alexander Ginzburg, the state-run Tass news service reported.

It didn’t state how many people took part in the trial.

Fauci Optimistic About Moderna Vaccine (7:36 a.m. NY)

Moderna shares rose after Anthony Fauci, the leading U.S. infectious disease official, said he was optimistic about the company’s vaccine. “Even though there were only eight individuals, we saw neutralizing antibodies at a reasonable dose of the vaccine,” Fauci said on CNN. “Although the numbers were limited, it was really quite good news because it reached and went over an important hurdle in the development of vaccines. That’s the reason why I’m cautiously optimistic about it.”

Fauci said on NPR that he expects the full results of a Phase 1 study of the biotech’s experimental Covid-19 vaccine within weeks. Earlier this week, an experimental vaccine from the company showed signs that it can create an immune-system response to fend off the new coronavirus. In 25 people who got either of the two smaller doses used in the study, researchers reported that the levels of antibodies equaled or exceeded the levels of antibodies found in patients who had recovered from the virus.

The second test, evaluating the quality of those antibodies, was only available for eight of the people because it takes longer to perform. But in all eight people, the vaccine successfully stimulated the body to create antibodies capable of neutralizing the virus in the test tube, so it can no longer infect cells.

Alibaba Growth Slows; Deere Tractor Sales Hold Up (7:15 a.m. NY)

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. reported its slowest pace of revenue growth on record after China’s economic contraction drove down spending across its online marketplaces. The results demonstrate the world’s second largest economy has yet to fully shake off Covid-19, with consumers still hesitant about spending on big-ticket items.

Deere & Co. shares rose after the world’s biggest tractor maker navigated coronavirus upheavals better than expected in the height of the pandemic. For the three months through April, sales and earnings fell less than analysts projected as agriculture -- deemed essential in the lockdown era -- proves more resilient than many other industries.

U.K. Contact-Tracing App Roll-Out Delayed (6:20 a.m. NY)

Britain’s mobile phone app for tracking coronavirus infections has been delayed by bureaucracy and the addition of more symptoms to monitor, according to a person familiar with the matter -- who said they expected the government to abandon it in favor of the model backed by Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc.’s Google.

The app is being developed by VMware Inc. and Zuhlke Engineering Ltd at a cost of 4.7 million pounds ($5.8 million). There has been controversy about the U.K.’s decision to reject the structure backed by Apple and Google, a move that has been criticized by privacy campaigners.

The U.K. has opted for a “centralized” model, where people who test positive for coronavirus upload all their recent contacts to a database, and those people are then contacted and warned. Apple Inc. and Google released their Covid-19 exposure-notification tools on Wednesday. Some governments have criticized the “decentralized” system because it doesn’t let authorities store data on who has the virus and track where it is spreading. Instead, it just notifies individuals if they have been exposed.

Germany Plans One-Time Child Bonus (6 a.m. NY)

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz is planning a one-time bonus for families of 300 euros ($327) per child as part of a government stimulus program worth as much as 150 billion euros, Der Spiegel magazine reported, without identifying the source of its information. The bonus could cost the government 5 billion to 6 billion euros. Scholz is also considering vouchers to boost consumer spending.

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With assistance from Bloomberg