The Latest COVID-19 Updates (April 10)

Staff Writer

3 p.m. HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf announced a new loan program for hospitals to mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19 during the state’s daily livestream on Friday.
Speaking via recorded message due to ongoing satellite communication problems, Wolf said the Hospital Emergency Loan Program is a $450 million low-interest loan package providing medical facilities with immediate working capital to get the equipment they need to treat and protect their staff from COVID-19 without risking financial ruin.
The COVID-19 crisis has been costly for hospitals, as they prepare for a potential surge in patients by moving staff to emergency rooms, purchasing additional equipment and setting up more beds. In addition, the social distancing measures intended to halt the virus’s spread have led to the temporary suspension of elective surgeries, preventive medicine and other non-urgent care that make up a significant percentage of hospitals’ revenue. That combination has pushed a number of Pennsylvania hospitals to the threshold of bankruptcy. With about 2,000 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 and the number increasing every day, that situation is expected to worsen.
Wolf said the loan program will fully mobilize the healthcare system to treat COVID-19 patients as they arrive, as the financial burden of coronavirus preparations lessens. He added that when normalcy returns, hospitals will see their cash flows increase, allowing them to better manage whatever traces of COVID-19 remain.

2 p.m. NEW YORK (AP) — The worldwide death toll from the coronavirus hit 100,000 as Christians around the globe marked a Good Friday unlike any other — in front of computer screens instead of in church pews — and some countries tiptoed toward reopening segments of their battered economies.
Around the world, public health officials and religious leaders alike warned people against violating the lockdowns and social distancing rules over Easter and allowing the virus to come storming back. Authorities resorted to roadblocks and other means to discourage travel.
In Italy, officials employed helicopters, drones and stepped-up police checks to make sure residents didn't slip out of their homes. On Thursday alone, police stopped some 300,000 people around Italy to check whether they had permission to travel. About 10,000 were issued summonses.
Some churches held services online, while others arranged prayers at drive-in theaters. Fire-scarred Notre Dame Cathedral came back to life briefly in Paris, days before the first anniversary of the April 15 inferno that ravaged it. Services were broadcast from the closed-to-the-public cathedral.
The holiday observances came as the worldwide number of deaths tracked by Johns Hopkins University hit a bleak milestone of 100,000 since late December, when the outbreak emerged in China. More than 1.6 million people around the globe have been infected, by the university's count.
The true number of lives lost is believed be much higher because of limited testing, cover-ups by some governments, and different counting practices. For example, in places like New York, Italy and Spain, many victims who died outside a hospital — say, in a home or a nursing home — have not been counted.
Deaths in the U.S. reached about 18,000, putting it on track to overtake Italy as the country with the highest death toll, and about a half-million Americans were confirmed infected. More than 40% of the dead in the U.S were in New York state. Still, there were signs of hope.

12 p.m. Jefferson County still has only one confirmed case of COVID-19, according to Thursday’s statistical update from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The surrounding counties stand as follows: Clearfield, eight; Indiana, 26; Armstrong, 22; Clarion, 10; Forest, five; and Elk, two.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump spoke on the phone Friday with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss stabilizing global energy markets, which have been heavily impacted by decreasing demand from the coronavirus pandemic, the White House and Kremlin said in statements.
The Kremlin says the two leaders discussed the current situation of the global oil market, “including an agreement being worked out as part of OPEC-plus to reduce production volumes in order to stabilize world oil prices.”
On the call, the second in two days, Trump talked about the contacts he's had with leaders of a number of oil-producing countries, the Kremlin said. “It was agreed to continue Russian-American consultations on this topic,” the statement said.
They also discussed measures both nations are taking to combat the spread of infection and other bilateral issues, including cooperation in space.
WASHINGTON — The federal Health and Human Services department says it’s releasing the first $30 billion in grants provided by the stimulus bill to help keep the U.S. health care system operating during the coronavirus outbreak.
Congress provided $100 billion for the health care system in the $2 trillion stimulus bill.
Officials say the relief funds will go to hospitals and doctors through Medicare and will be based on their billings to the program last year. Hospitals are supposed to use some of the money to cover COVID-19 treatment for the uninsured, although an independent study earlier this week suggests it may not be enough.

10:30 a.m. BRUSSELS — European heads of state and governments will meet by videoconference April 23 to confirm the agreement of the Eurogroup to support Europe’s economies amid the global economic crisis.
The 19 European countries that use the euro currency overcame weeks of divisions to agree Thursday on more than half a trillion euros ($550 billion) of support programs to cushion the recession caused by the deadly coronavirus.
European Council president Charles Michel says the package will help European Union countries, workers and businesses by shouldering “the burden of the crisis together.” The compromise is aimed “at quick targeted relief.”

9 a.m. WASHINGTON — The top U.S. infectious disease official says coronavirus antibody tests are just days away.
Dr. Anthony Fauci says at the last White House coronavirus task force meeting, the people responsible for developing, validating and disseminating the tests were saying “a rather large number of tests” will be available within a week.
Fauci told CNN on Friday he’s ”certain that that’s going to happen.”
An antibody test could show whether a person was recently exposed to the coronavirus. Fauci says the test would say “that you were infected and if you’re feeling well you very likely recovered.”
Fauci says medical experts could then try to determine how deeply the virus “has penetrated the society” and whether previously infected people would be vulnerable to reinfection, which is particularly “important for health care workers.”
Fauci says testing for an antibody doesn’t mean medical experts are shifting away from testing for the virus to see who’s infected. He says, “those things are done in parallel.”
LONDON — Boris Johnson’s father says the British prime minister needs time to recover from the new coronavirus and is unlikely to be back at work imminently.
The U.K. leader spent three nights in the intensive care unit at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London after his COVID-19 symptoms worsened. He was moved back to a regular ward on Thursday evening, and his office says he is in “the early phase of his recovery.”
His father Stanley Johnson said the prime minister needed to “rest up.”
“He has to take time,” Stanley Johnson told the BBC. “I cannot believe you can walk away from this and get straight back to Downing Street and pick up the reins without a period of readjustment.”
Johnson was diagnosed with COVID-19 two weeks ago, the first world leader confirmed to have the illness. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is standing in for Johnson while he is in hospital.