Live updates for Friday, April 10, continue at this link.

Key updates for Thursday, April 9, 2020:

  • White House task force officials and President Trump held a briefing at 6:30 p.m. EDT.
  • Dr. Fauci: Don’t assume virus fades in warm weather.
  • More than 1.5 million confirmed cases globally.
  • Another surge of unemployment claims.
  • The pandemic has set the number of air travelers back decades.
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is out of the ICU. 
  • The U.S. is approaching 15,000 deaths as a forecast model touted by the White House has been revised downward.
  • World leaders and health experts warn not to relax social distancing for Easter.
  • 74 in South Korea test positive for second time.
  • New Zealand is reporting the fewest new cases in nearly three weeks thanks to a strict lockdown.
  • Japan has had more than 500 new cases for the first time.
  • From Wednesday, April 8 blog: CDC issues new guidance for essential workers.

White House tests journalists before news brief


The White House tested journalists for COVID-19 before Thursday’s press briefing, marking the latest effort by the White House and the White House Correspondents’ Association to keep the new coronavirus off the campus. 

The testing followed a report that a member of the White House press corps who was at the White House on Tuesday has experienced symptoms consistent with the disease. The journalist ended up testing negative and is feeling better, Jonathan Karl, the association’s president, said in e-mail Thursday. 

White House says no 'surprise' bills for COVID-19 patients


The White House says hospitals taking money from the $2 trillion stimulus bill will have to agree not to send “surprise” medical bills to patients treated for COVID-19. 

Surprise bills happen when a patient with health insurance gets treated at an out-of-network emergency room, or when an out-of-network doctor assists with a hospital procedure. They can run to tens of thousands of dollars. 

The stimulus bill created a $100 billion fund for the health care system. Providers who accept the grants will have to agree not to bill more than patients would have paid in their insurance network. 

NFL to have 58 prospects participate remotely in draft

The NFL announces 58 prospects will participate remotely in the draft this month. The league also announced that its three-day draft will coincide with a “Draft-A-Thon” that will raise money for six charities on the front lines of the coronavirus breakout. 

The draft was originally slated to be held in Las Vegas but the league scuttled that plan because of the pandemic that has brought daily life to a near standstill across the globe. Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow is among eight LSU players who will participate in the April 23-25 draft remotely.

UN chief warns COVID-19 threatens global peace and security

The United Nations secretary-general is warning that the coronavirus pandemic is threatening international peace and security. Antonio Guterres warned the U.N. Security Council this can potentially lead “to an increase in social unrest and violence that would greatly undermine our ability to fight the disease.”

The council is the U.N.’s most powerful body and it has been silent on COVID-19 since it started circling the globe in January. But after Thursday's meeting the council issued its first brief press statement. 

It expressed “support for all efforts of the secretary-general concerning the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to conflict-affected countries."

President Trump says US 'at the top of the hill' of infections

President Donald Trump says the United States is "at the top of the hill" of coronavirus-related infections.

Trump made the comments during a White House briefing Thursday. He did not give data to support his claim or elaborate on what measure he used to come to that conclusion.

"I'm pretty sure we're at the top of the hill and no we're going downward. In some cases, we've already started that process," he says.

The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

Yelp announces layoffs, furloughs, and reduced hours for employees 

Yelp's Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Stoppelman on Thursday released a statement about the impacts of coronavirus on the business.

The company said it is taking the painful, but necessary step, to reduce the size of its workforce by letting go 1,000 employees, furloughed approximately 1,100 more, and reducing hours for others. 

Employees affected by the layoff will be offered severance pay, and reimbursement for up to three months of health insurance coverage. Employees on furlough will be put on unpaid leave, unless otherwise noted, but will retain the bulk of their benefits during this time and receive two weeks of additional pay. Those who have hours reduced will also continue to retain their benefits. 

"As we move beyond this crisis, Yelp will remain an essential resource, helping consumers and local businesses find and connect with one another," Stoppelman said in the statement. "While this pandemic has dealt us an unprecedented and unexpected setback, I couldn’t be more proud of how our teams across the company came together over the past few weeks. The coming months will require us to stay nimble and adapt, like many local businesses have been doing."

Trump declares coronavirus disaster for Alaska

President Donald Trump on Thursday declared a major disaster for the state of Alaska over the coronavirus.

Last month, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy declared a public health disaster emergency related to the virus.

Officials say Trump ordered federal assistance to supplement efforts by state, local and tribal efforts in part of the state affected by COVID-19.

As of Thursday, the state had reported 235 cases of COVID-19. The state health department says there have been seven COVID-19-related deaths of Alaskans, including two people who were out of state at the time of their deaths.

Wall Street caps best week since 1974 as Fed launches $2.3T loan program


Wall Street closed out its best week in 45 years on Thursday after the Federal Reserve launched its latest titanic effort to support the economy through the coronavirus outbreak. The central bank announced programs to provide up to $2.3 trillion in loans to households, local governments and businesses as the country tips into what economists say may be the worst recession in decades. 

The Fed’s actions completely overshadowed a government report that another 6.6 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week. Stock investors expected such dismal numbers and are looking ahead to a possible economic rebound. 

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'Saturday Night Live' airing new material with cast social distancing

“Saturday Night Live” will still release new material on Saturday even as cast members are practicing social distancing. NBC says “Weekend Update” news segment and other original content from cast members will be featured in the show elements.

Part of the pandemic's fallout was a shutdown of movie and TV production that included “Saturday Night Live." Its last original episode aired March 7.

“SNL” is airing the remotely produced content Saturday, April 11 at 11:30 p.m. ET/PT on NBC, the network announced Thursday. 

RELATED: ‘Saturday Night Live’ to air new content from cast members social distancing

UK's Prime Minister Boris Johnson out of intensive care 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been moved out of intensive care, his office says. 

In a statement Thursday, a spokesman at 10, Downing Street said Johnson “has been moved this evening from intensive care back to the ward, where he will receive close monitoring during the early phase of his recovery.” 

RELATED: UK's Prime Minister Boris Johnson out of intensive care as condition improves

Johnson has been in intensive care for three days after his symptoms for coronavirus worsened. He tested positive for the virus two weeks ago and at first had only “mild” symptoms. Dominic Raab, who has been deputizing for the prime minister during key meetings, said Johnson was “making positive steps forward.”

Top French doctor says obesity is major risk factor

France's chief epidemiologist says obesity is a major risk factor for people infected with coronavirus and because of that, he's particularly worried about the United States. 

 Professor Jean-François Delfraissy heads the scientific council that is advising the French government on its COVID-19 response. According to Reuters, Delfraissy told franceinfo radio that the virus "can hit young people, in particular obese young people. Those who are overweight really need to be careful." 

"That is why we’re worried about our friends in America, where the problem of obesity is well known and where they will probably have the most problems because of obesity,” Delfraissy said. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that people with severe obesity, considered a body mass index of 40 or higher, are at risk for severe illness from COVID-19. 

Dr. Fauci: Don't expect virus to fade during warm weather

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, says don’t assume the coronavirus will fade during warm weather.

Fauci told ABC’s “Good Morning America” there’s precedent with other infections like influenza that “when the virus gets warmer that the virus goes down in its ability to replicate, to spread.”

But Fauci added “having said that, one should not assume that we are going to be rescued by a change in the weather. You must assume that the virus will continue to do its thing. If we get some help from the weather, so be it, fine. But I don’t think we need to assume that.”

He was asked about the New York Times story that research indicates the coronavirus that began circulating in New York in mid-February came mainly from Europe, not Asia.

“I think that’s probably correct,” Fauci said. He notes that “Europe became the epicenter pretty quickly after China really exploded with their cases.”

British PM Boris Johnson continues to improve in ICU

British prime minister Boris Johnson “continues to improve” in the intensive care unit of a London hospital where he is being treated for the new coronavirus.

Spokesman James Slack says Johnson “had a good night” at St. Thomas’ Hospital, his third night in intensive care. Johnson is receiving oxygen but is not on a ventilator.

Johnson was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26 and taken to hospital on Sunday with a persistent cough and fever. He was moved to the ICU Monday after his condition worsened.

Confirmed cases surpass 1.5 million

There are now more than 1.5 million confirmed cases of coronavirus around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. As of Thursday morning, there has been nearly 90,000 COVID-19 deaths while nearly 340,000 people have recovered.

Record 16.8 million have sought US jobless aid since virus

With a startling 6.6 million people seeking jobless benefits last week, the United States has reached a grim landmark: Roughly one in 10 workers have lost their jobs in just the past three weeks. The figures collectively constitute the largest and fastest string of job losses in records dating to 1948. They paint a picture of a job market that is quickly unraveling as businesses have shut down across the country because of the coronavirus outbreak. More than 20 million Americans may lose jobs this month.  

Pandemic has set the number of air travelers back decades

The steep drop in air travel is passing a milestone. Fewer than 100,000 people went through airport checkpoints on both Tuesday and Wednesday, the lowest numbers since the Transportation Security Administration started keeping track.

That’s down 95% from a year ago, and could be the smallest number since the 1950s. There was no commercial air travel in the U.S. for several days after the terror attacks in September 2001, but people gradually got back on planes over the following months. It could be a slower recovery this time, according to outfits that have surveyed people about when they’ll feel safe flying again.  

Model: U.S. projected peak to come Sunday

There are 432,132 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of midnight ET Thursday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been 14,817 deaths and 23,906 recoveries.

A forecast model by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, which has been cited by the White House, now predicts the U.S. peak will come sooner and with fewer deaths.

IHME now predicts the the highest number of deaths in one day in the U.S. will happen Sunday with a projected 2,212. But there are factors of uncertainty that could put that number as high as 5,000, and the model assumes social distancing measures continue to be practiced.

As recently as Monday, IHME predicted the peak day would come on April 16 with a number of deaths above 3,000.

The model still projects that the peak need for beds, ICU beds and ventilators will extend into next early next week, but the numbers are lower than previously forecast.

Worldwide, there are nearly 1.5 million confirmed cases with 88,538 deaths and 329,876 recoveries.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and can lead to death.

RELATED: A look at how coronavirus projections are made

RELATED: Federal stockpile of protective equipment nearly depleted, HHS says

Health officials warn: Don't let up on Easter

World leaders and health experts are warning that hard-won gains in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic must not be jeopardized by relaxing social distancing practices during Easter

 A spike in deaths in Britain and New York and surges of reported new infections in Japan and in India’s congested cities make it clear that the battle is far from over.

The warnings come even as the U.S. and some of the hardest-hit European countries are considering when to start easing restrictions.

The sharp rise in Japan is worrisome since it has the world’s oldest population. India is already under a lockdown but it took a further step to seal hot spots and not allow residents to leave.  

74 in South Korea test positive for 2nd time

South Korea says at least 74 people who had been diagnosed as recovered from the new coronavirus tested positive for the second time after they were released from hospitals.

Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday health authorities were testing virus and serum samples to determine whether patients who tested positive again would be capable of transmitting the virus to others and whether their bodies had properly created antibodies.

She said some of the patients didn’t show any symptoms before their follow-up tests turned positive, while others were tested again because they were exhibiting respiratory symptoms. She said none of these patients so far have seen their illness worsen to serious conditions.

Air traveler numbers fall back to 1954 levels

The number of Americans getting on airplanes has sunk to a level not seen in more than 60 years -- not including the days immediately after 9/11 -- as people shelter in their homes to avoid catching or spreading the new coronavirus.

The Transportation Security Administration screened fewer than 100,000 people on Tuesday, a drop of 95% from a year ago.

The official tally of 97,130 people who passed through TSA checkpoints exaggerates the number of travelers – if that is possible – because it includes some airline crew members and people still working at shops inside airport security perimeters.

New Zealand records lowest number of new cases in weeks

Halfway through a planned four-week lockdown, New Zealand has recorded its lowest number of new coronavirus cases in nearly three weeks.

Health officials said Thursday there were 29 new cases, the fourth successive daily drop since 89 new cases were recorded on Sunday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also announced stricter border measures that require all returning nationals to go into a managed quarantine facility for two weeks. Previously, returning nationals with no symptoms of COVID-19 had been allowed to isolate themselves at home.

Japan reports 500-plus new cases for 1st time

Japan’s health ministry said Thursday that the country had more than 500 new cases for the first time on Wednesday, bringing the national total to 4,768 — excluding hundreds from a cruise ship quarantined near Tokyo earlier this year.

The continuous climb comes two days after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and six other hard-hit prefectures, while asking people to reduce at least 70% of human interactions. The step allows Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and six other prefectural leaders to issue stricter measures of social distancing, but without penalties to violators. So far, Koike only issued a stay-at-home request to the residents. Requests for closures of noon-essential businesses and services are still under way.