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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT

April 08, 2020 - 8:04 PM

HHS: Federal stocks of protective equipment nearly depleted

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Strategic National Stockpile is nearly out of the N95 respirators, surgical masks, face, shields, gowns and other medical supplies desperately needed to protect front-line medical workers treating coronavirus patients.

The Department of Health and Human Services told the Associated Press Wednesday that the federal stockpile was in the process of deploying all remaining personal protective equipment in its inventory.

The HHS statement confirms federal documents released Wednesday by the House Oversight and Reform Committee showing that about 90% of the personal protective equipment in the stockpile has been distributed to state and local governments.

HHS spokeswoman Katie McKeogh said the remaining 10% will be kept in reserve to support federal response efforts.

House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., said in a statement that the Trump administration is leaving states to scour the open market for scarce supplies, often competing with each other and federal agencies in a chaotic bidding war that drives up prices.

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Outcry over racial data grows as virus slams black Americans

As the coronavirus tightens its grip across the country, it is cutting a particularly devastating swath through an already vulnerable population — black Americans.

Democratic lawmakers and community leaders in cities hard-hit by the pandemic have been sounding the alarm over what they see as a disturbing trend of the virus killing African Americans at a higher rate, along with a lack of overall information about the race of victims as the nation’s death toll mounts.

Among the cities where black residents have been hard-hit: New York, Detroit, New Orleans, Chicago and Milwaukee.

“Everywhere we look, the coronavirus is devastating our communities,” said Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP.

Of the victims whose demographic data was publicly shared by officials — nearly 3,300 of the nation’s 13,000 deaths thus far — about 42% were black, according to an Associated Press analysis. African Americans account for roughly 21% of the total population in the areas covered by the analysis.

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What you need to know today about the virus outbreak

The Chinese city at the heart of the global pandemic, Wuhan, reopened Wednesday after 76 days in lockdown. Elsewhere, the economic, political and psychological toll of fighting the new coronavirus grew increasingly clear and more difficult to bear.

New York endured one of its darkest days so far, with the virus death toll surging past the number killed on 9-11. It recorded 731 new coronavirus deaths, its biggest one-day jump yet, for a statewide toll of nearly 5,500.

And British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in intensive care with the coronavirus but is improving and sitting up in bed, a senior government minister said Wednesday, as the U.K. recorded its biggest spike in COVID-19 deaths to date.

Here are some of AP’s top stories Wednesday on the world’s coronavirus pandemic. Follow APNews.com/VirusOutbreak for updates through the day and APNews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak for stories explaining some of its complexities.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:

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Congress in standoff on virus aid, but first checks coming

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is rushing headlong into a conflict over the next coronavirus aid package as the White House wants to pump $250 billion into a small business fund but opposes Democrats' proposal to tack on billions for protective gear, food stamps and support to state and local governments.

An attempt for a Thursday vote in the Senate will pose a first test.

Despite the urgency to act, it's a sudden breakdown over what all sides agree is the need for federal help as the pandemic crisis roars through communities large and small, and Washington prepares to go beyond the $2.2 trillion package approved just two weeks ago.

President Donald Trump urged passage of the small business funds “ASAP.”

Still, signs of potential progress emerged Wednesday in Washington's effort to push cash out the door to suddenly out-of-work Americans and shuttered businesses.

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Countries start thinking about easing up on restrictions

NEW YORK (AP) — Even as coronavirus deaths mount across Europe and New York, the U.S. and other countries are starting to contemplate an exit strategy and thinking about a staggered and carefully calibrated easing of restrictions designed to curb the scourge.

“To end the confinement, we’re not going to go from black to white; we’re going to go from black to gray,” top French epidemiologist Jean-François Delfraissy said in a radio interview.

Deaths, hospitalizations and new infections are levelling off in places like Italy and Spain, and even New York has seen encouraging signs amid the gloom. At the same time, politicians and health officials warn that the crisis is far from over and a catastrophic second wave could hit if countries let down their guard too soon.

“We are flattening the curve because we are rigorous about social distancing,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “But it’s not a time to be complacent. It’s not a time to do anything different than we’ve been doing.”

In a sharp reminder of the danger, New York state on Wednesday recorded its highest one-day increase in deaths, 779, for an overall death toll of almost 6,300.

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Biden vs. Trump: General election battle is now set

The stage is set for November.

Barring unforeseen disaster, Joe Biden will represent the Democratic Party against President Donald Trump this fall, the former vice-president's place on the general election ballot cemented Wednesday by Bernie Sanders' decision to end his campaign.

Biden likely won’t secure the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination until June. But without any Democratic rivals left, a general election campaign that will almost certainly be the most expensive and among the nastiest in U.S. history is underway.

“It won’t be easy. Nobody’s confused about that. But we are ready for the general election. We are ready for our standard-bearer,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said. “I’m confident because Joe Biden's values reflect the values of the majority of the American people that we can win."

In Biden and Trump, voters will choose between two white septuagenarians with dramatically different prescriptions for health care, climate change, foreign policy and leadership in an era of extreme partisanship.

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Jobless claims report Thursday could hit 7 million or higher

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government is set to report another shocking level of unemployment claims Thursday even after nearly 10 million people applied for benefits in the previous two weeks because of business shutdowns from the coronavirus. The number will likely keep increasing, in part because many states are still clearing out backlogs of applications for unemployment aid. And with more companies running through their cash cushions as the virus-related shutdowns persist, they are resorting to layoffs to save money.

As job cuts mount, here are five aspects of the bleakest U.S. job market in memory.

APPLICATIONS FOR UNEMPLOYMENT AID KEEP RISING

Some analysts project that another record will be set by the number of claims filed for the week that ended April 4, which will be reported Thursday at 8:30 am. Jesse Edgerton, an economist at JPMorgan Chase, forecasts that 7 million people sought benefits that week. That would top the previous week's stunning record of 6.6 million.

Up to 50 million jobs are vulnerable to coronavirus-related layoffs, economists say — about one-third of all the jobs in the United States. That figure is based on a calculation of positions that are deemed non-essential by state and federal governments and that cannot be done from home. It's unlikely all those workers will be laid off or file a jobless claim. But it suggests the extraordinary magnitude of unemployment that could result from the pandemic.

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Saudi officials announce Yemen cease-fire amid pandemic

CAIRO (AP) — The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen announced Wednesday that its forces would begin a cease-fire starting Thursday, a step that could pave the way for the first direct peace talks between the two sides that have been at war for more than five years.

In a statement carried by Saudi Arabia's official state news agency, a Saudi military spokesman, Col. Turki al-Malki, said that the ceasefire would last two weeks and that it comes in response to U.N. calls to halt hostilities amid the coronavirus pandemic. He said the ceasefire could be extended to pave the way for all the parties “to discuss proposals, steps, and mechanisms for sustainable ceasefire in Yemen ... for a comprehensive political solution in Yemen.”

There was no immediate reaction from Houthi leaders or Yemen's internationally recognized government to the coalition's statement.

Within hours of the announcement, residents in the contested Yemeni province Marib said a suspected Houthi missile struck a security building in the city centre. There was no immediate claim of responsibility or reports of casualties. A Yemeni presiderntial adviser, Abdel-Malek al-Mekhlafi, blamed the Houthis, saying on Twitter that the attack shows the rebels "are fueling war not peace.”

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who called for a cease-fire in all global conflicts on March 23 to tackle the virus and specifically called two days later for a cessation in Yemen, welcomed the announcement, saying: “This can help to advance efforts towards peace as well as the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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Linda Tripp, whose tapes exposed Clinton affair, dies at 70

WASHINGTON (AP) — Linda Tripp, whose secretly taped conversations with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky provided evidence of an affair with President Bill Clinton that led to his impeachment, died Wednesday. She was 70.

Tripp’s death was confirmed by attorney Joseph Murtha, but he provided no details. She had been treated for breast cancer in 2001.

Tripp was a 48-year-old divorced mother of two living in Columbia, Maryland, when she became a controversial national figure as the Clinton impeachment investigation unfolded in 1998. For some she was a heroine who stood up for the rule of law; for others, she was a schemer for profit who betrayed a friend while posing as a motherly confidant.

As news broke that Tripp was near death, Lewinsky tweeted: “no matter the past, upon hearing that linda tripp is very seriously ill, i hope for her recovery. i can’t imagine how difficult this is for her family.”

Lewinsky was 22 when she worked as a White House intern in summer 1995. That November she and Clinton began their affair, which continued after she was hired for a West Wing job. Reassigned to the Pentagon in April 1996, Lewinsky met Tripp and they became friends.

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Working at home tests family atmosphere of TV morning shows

NEW YORK (AP) — For all the planning that went into “CBS This Morning” putting on a broadcast with its anchors working remotely, no one thought about the pillow.

It sat — slightly crookedly — on a chair behind Gayle King in the makeshift studio set up in her family room. And that pillow, every time the camera caught it, was driving one viewer nuts.

More than most news programs, morning shows on ABC, CBS and NBC thrive by fostering a sense that their personalities are a chummy family. Now, due to coronavirus restrictions, those family members appear onscreen in dislocated boxes, and invite viewers into their homes instead of vice versa.

The least they can do is straighten out the furniture.

“We're doing the best we can,” King replied on-air to the pillow-obsessed fan.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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