The latest on the coronavirus pandemic.

PARIS — The French navy is investigating how the coronavirus infected more than 1,000 sailors aboard the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, amid growing pressure on government leaders to explain how it could have happened.

The ship, France’s biggest carrier and the flagship of its navy, is undergoing a lengthy disinfection process since returning to its home base in Toulon five days ago.

One person remains in intensive care and some 20 others are hospitalized, navy spokesman Cmdr. Eric Lavault told The Associated Press. Two of four U.S. sailors serving aboard the Charles de Gaulle as part of an exchange program also tested positive, according to a U.S. Navy statement.

Lavault insisted that the aircraft carrier’s commander sought to increase the physical distance among the crew members on the vessel, where there was no testing equipment and, for most of its three months on operations, no masks.

A similar outbreak on the USS Theodore Roosevelt and a dispute about how the at-sea health crisis was handled led to the firing of its captain and the resignation this month of the acting U.S. Navy secretary.

Read the full story on the outbreak here.

Couple tie the knot at bank’s drive-thru window in Northeast Harbor

NORTHEAST HARBOR — It wasn’t the destination wedding in Florida that they’d planned, but a Maine couple found a way to tie the knot in the middle of a pandemic.

Bradley Gray and Teresa Norwood Gray got hitched Thursday at a drive-thru window at a local bank in their hometown.

“I threw it out there kind of as a joke at first. Then the more we talked about it, we’re like, oh, maybe that’ll work,” Bradley Gray told The Associated Press.

The officiant was inside the bank, behind the glass at the teller window. The happy couple stood outside, where they exchanged their vows. Guests in the parking lot practiced social distancing.

Teresa Norwood Gray’s son walked her down the “aisle.” Local teens provided the music. Passing motorists stopped to watch.

“Everyone needs a little lifting up right now. So the community really came together,” she said. “It gave them something to smile about.”

The novel coronavirus didn’t just ruin their warm-weather wedding. It also ruined their honeymoon. They were supposed to be departing Saturday on a cruise to the Caribbean.

But the happy couple is making the best of it. They were heading to the groom’s cabin in Maine. “It’s not quite as warm as the Caribbean but we’ll make it work,” Bradley Gray said.

Trump hopes to resume campaign rallies without social distancing

WASHINGTON — President Trump says he remains hopeful that he will be able to resume campaign rallies ahead of the November election.

Trump said that he does not want social distancing at his rallies, which typically draw big crowds, because doesn’t want attendees to miss the “flavor” of the experience. Trump stopped holding his big stadium rallies in early March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The president predicted that when the rallies resume they’ll be “bigger than ever.”

Trump has left Washington only once over the last month as he’s dealt with the pandemic.

But the president announced Friday that he plans to travel to the U.S. Military Academy in New York next month for its commencement ceremony.

U.S. stocks join worldwide rally in first back-to-back weekly gain since sell-off

NEW YORK — In Wall Street’s tug of war between hope and pessimism about the coronavirus pandemic, hope is pulling back. U.S. stocks joined a worldwide rally Friday and closed out their first back-to-back weekly gain since the market began selling off two months ago.

The S&P 500 jumped 2.7 percent Friday, following up on even bigger gains in Europe and Asia, as investors latched onto several strands of hope about progress in the fight against the coronavirus. They included the White House’s release of guidelines for states to reopen their economies and a very early but encouraging report on a possible treatment for COVID-19.

The gains came even as scary data piled higher about the economic and human toll of the virus, which has killed more than 150,000 worldwide and forced the formerly high-flying Chinese economy to shrink a crunching 6.8 percent last quarter. A measure of leading economic indicators in the U.S. plunged last month by the most in its 60-year history, the latest in a string of similarly unprecedented data reports.

The S&P 500 rose 75.01 points to 2,874.56. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 704.81, or 3 percent, to 24,242.49, and the Nasdaq added 117.78, or 1.4 percent, to 8,650.14.

Read the full stocks story here.

Republicans signal possible movement in standoff over virus aid for businesses 

WASHINGTON — Republicans signaled Friday that they are willing to accept Democrats’ demands for additional federal funding for hospitals as part of an effort to break a stalemate over the Trump administration’s $250 billion emergency request for a small-business paycheck subsidy program that’s out of money.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told The Associated Press he is also willing to meet a demand by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to set aside some of the requested “paycheck protection” funding for community lenders. But he said Republicans would draw the line at demands for additional tens of billions of dollars in funding for state and local governments suffering from plummeting tax revenues. McCarthy said Republicans also want replenishment of a Small Business Administration program that offers disaster loans.

The House met in a pro forma session on Friday in which no business was conducted. A Senate session quickly adjourned Thursday without any progress. The next meeting is a Senate session Monday that could be used for legislative action if all sides agree. Negotiations are continuing into the weekend and pressure is mounting since the SBA announced Thursday it has reached its $349 billion lending limit and is no longer accepting applications.

The $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program is a centerpiece of last month’s massive rescue bill. It gives grants to businesses with fewer than 500 workers so that they can maintain payroll and pay rent while shutting down their businesses during social distancing edicts.

Read the full story about negotiations over the Paycheck Protection Program here.

With fishing fleets tied up, marine life given a chance to recover

Plummeting global demand for fish and seafood as a result of the coronavirus crisis is likely to create an effect similar to the halt of commercial fishing during World Wars I and II, when the idling of fleets led to the rebound of fish stocks.

The closure of restaurants and hotels, the main buyers of fish and seafood, together with the difficulties of maintaining social distancing among crews at sea have caused hundreds of fishing vessels to be tied up at ports around the world. Marine scientist have already started investigating the effects this will have on marine life.

“Studies after the first and second world wars showed a spectacular recovery,” said Carlos Duarte, a research chair at the Red Sea Research Center in Saudi Arabia. “We are hoping that this unintended closed season between February and June or July will accelerate the recovery of fish stocks and allow us to reach conservation objectives faster.”

The COVID-19 outbreak has decimated the restaurant trade and wreaked havoc with food supply chains. Demand and prices have collapsed in Asia, home to some of the world’s largest seafood and fish markets. In Spain, which has the largest fleet in the European Union, half of the ships are staying at port.

The EU enacted emergency measures last month to allow member states to give financial aid to help the fishing and aquaculture industries through what it called a “dramatic slump” in demand for seafood. The downtown adds to uncertainty for EU members such as Spain and France over future access to U.K. waters as a result of Brexit.

The marine environment can only benefit from the reduced pressure on stocks, however. While evidence of a recovery in marine life is still anecdotal, increases in the presence of mammals such as killer whales, dolphins and seals have been recorded in areas where they hadn’t been seen in decades, said Duarte, who is part of a consortium of scientists in the U.K., Canada, Spain and Saudi Arabia compiling data.

Read the full story about fisheries here.

Tribes, including from Maine, sue over distribution of virus relief funding

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Several Native American tribes sued the federal government Friday, seeking to keep any of the $8 billion in federal coronavirus relief for tribes kept out of the hands of for-profit Alaska Native corporations.

The U.S. Treasury Department is tasked with doling out the money by April 26 to help tribes nationwide stay afloat, respond to the virus and recover after having to shut down casinos, tourism operations and other businesses that serve as their main moneymakers.

The Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation and the Tulalip Tribes in Washington state, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians in Maine, and the Akiak Native Community, Asa’carsarmiut Tribe and Aleut Community of St. Paul Island in Alaska filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Treasury Department, named as the defendant, did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

Already, tribes had raised questions about the distribution of the funding.

“It is what Indian Country will rely on to start up again,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “And Congress surely didn’t intend to put tribal governments, which are providing health care, education, jobs, job training, and all sorts of programs, to compete against these Alaska corporate interests, which looks like a cash grab.”

The Interior Department, which oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, said Alaska Native corporations are eligible for the funding, pointing to a definition that includes them as an “Indian Tribe” in the federal bill. The corporations are unique to Alaska and own most Native lands in the state under a 1971 settlement but are not tribal governments.

Tribes argue that the Interior Department has taken a limited view of the definition and that Congress intended for the money to go to the country’s 574 federally recognized tribes that have a government-to-government relationship with the U.S.

Read the full story about the Native American relief here.

Johns Hopkins launches county-by-county map of U.S. infections

After what one person behind the project called “a lot of sleepless nights” and an effort drawing from departments and programs across campus, Johns Hopkins University this week launched a new app tracking covid-19 cases across the United States on a county-by-county level.

The map is a complement to Johns Hopkins’s world map, a resource that has become critical for policymakers, public health officials and anyone else trying to make sense of the virus’s spread.

“We saw this as an incredible opportunity to start to zoom in and really understand the impact covid-19 is having on a local level,” Beth Blauer, executive director of the university’s Centers for Civic Impact, said Tuesday during a webinar explaining the new tracker.

“You can look at the map and toggle between different views. So you’ve got the ability to look at the confirmed cases by population, the total death counts for each individual county, and the death rate,” she said.

The tracker is informed by data from the university’s ongoing global tracker, as well as information from the Red Cross, the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Besides information on the virus, the new tracker also provides a snapshot of race and ethnicity breakdown for each county, as well as the county’s health-care infrastructure, including hospital bed capacity and the number of ICU beds. The more comprehensive analysis provided by pairing these streams of data with the reported covid-19 cases could help predict the true impact of the virus’s spread, Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar at the university’s Center for Health Security, explained during the webinar.

“One of the challenges from the beginning has been getting access to data to help us to understand the case numbers that are being reported and to figure out where we may be headed based on these case numbers,” Nuzzo said. “But the raw case numbers alone are not enough for us to understand what’s really going on.”

The U.S. map will be updated once a day. According to a university spokesperson, variances between the new Johns Hopkins tracker and data relayed by other databases may occur “due to differences in data sources, changes in how source data report out, as well as time lag between up

Global markets surge, with Dow jumping 600 points, after coronavirus drug trial shows promise

Stocks flashed green around the world as investors clung to early reports that an antiviral medicine appeared to successfully treat severe symptoms for coronavirus patients.

The Dow Jones industrial average surged roughly 600 points, or 2.5 percent, at Friday’s open. The Standard & Poor’s 500 jumped 2.0 percent and Nasdaq composite climbed 1.4 percent. U.S. markets appeared headed toward their second straight week of gains, bouncing back from March lows that ended the 10-year bull market. The rally came a day after dismal economic numbers showed the United States had erased all job gains of the past decade due to the pandemic, which continues to force tens of millions of Americans to stay home and disrupt entire industries.

“Investors are looking past the economic abyss and accentuating the positives on the health care front,” said Ed Yardeni, president of Yardeni Research.

In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 popped 2.9 percent, the German DAX climbed 3.45 percent and the benchmark Stoxx 600 gained 2.8 percent. Asian stocks finished the day with Japan’s Nikkei 225 up 3.15 percent, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng up 1.5 percent.

On Thursday, STAT news reported that severely ill coronavirus patients were responding well to remdesivir, a Gilead Sciences drug, at a Chicago hospital. The trial involved only 125 people and the preliminary results were not peer reviewed, but it was welcome news for investors looking for light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, and the economic recovery that will come with it. Gilead shares spiked nearly 10 percent Friday morning.

“There is also positive sentiment being generated by the White House’s plan to begin slowly rolling back lockdown measures,” said Kristina Hooper, global market strategist at Invesco. “It seems clear that, as of late, stocks have chosen to look through what is expected to be a dramatic drop in earnings, and forward to a resurgence in economic activity in the not-too-distant future.”

Oil prices remain at an 18-year-low as airline travel, driving and manufacturing have slowed to a crawl. U.S. crude was selling near $18 a barrel Friday, a fraction of what oil producers need to make a profit. If prices remain depressed long term, many oil companies, suppliers and adjacent service industries will be gravely wounded, resulting in bankruptcies and potentially massive layoffs.

Read the full story.

China’s virus death toll revised up sharply after review

BEIJING — China’s official death toll from the coronavirus pandemic jumped sharply Friday as the hardest-hit city of Wuhan announced a major revision that added nearly 1,300 fatalities.

The new figures resulted from an in-depth review of deaths during a response that was chaotic in the early days. They raised the official toll in Wuhan by 50% to 3,869 deaths. While China has yet to update its national totals, the revised numbers push up China’s total to 4,632 deaths from a previously reported 3,342.

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In this Feb. 1, 2020, file photo, funeral home workers remove the body of a person suspected to have died from the coronavirus outbreak from a residential building in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province. Chinatopix via AP, File

The higher numbers are not a surprise — it is virtually impossible to get an accurate count when health systems are overwhelmed at the height of a crisis — and they confirm suspicions that many more people died than the official figures had showed.

The undercount stemmed from several factors, according to a notification issued by Wuhan’s coronavirus response headquarters and published by the official Xinhua News Agency.

The reasons included the deaths of people at home because overwhelmed hospitals had no room for them, mistaken reporting by medical staff focused on saving lives, and deaths at a few medical institutions that weren’t linked to the epidemic information network, it said.

Read the full story here.

Coronavirus outbreaks are closing meat processing plants. Beef shortfalls may follow.

The coronavirus has sickened workers and forced slowdowns and closures of some of the country’s biggest meat processing plants, reducing production by as much as 25 percent, industry officials say, and sparking fears of a further round of hoarding.

Several of the country’s largest beef-packing companies have announced plant closures.

Before the coronavirus hit, about 660,000 beef cattle were being processed each week at plants across the United States, according to John Bormann, program sales manager for JBS, the American subsidiary of the world’s largest processor of fresh beef and pork.

This week there probably will be around 500,000 head processed at U.S. plants still in operation. That’s 25 percent less beef being produced.

Some of the slowdown is because of facility closures. Two of the seven largest U.S. facilities — those with the capacity to process 5,000 beef cattle daily — are closed because of the pandemic.

Absenteeism, fewer employees and spreading out those remaining employees to maintain social distance are all also contributing to the slow down.

JBS USA first closed its Souderton, Pa., beef plant April 7 and then shuttered its Greeley, Colo., beef facility after at least 50 of its 6,000 plant employees tested positive. All have been urged to self-quarantine.

National Beef Packing Co. announced Monday the closure of its Tama, Iowa, facility. And Cargill shuttered production at its Hazleton, Pa., ground beef and pork processing plant, and then reduced production at one of Canada’s biggest beef-packing plants after dozens of workers became infected.

The meat supply chain is especially vulnerable to the spread of the coronavirus since processing is increasingly done at a handful of massive plants. Another problem in the beef supply, according to Bormann, is something called carcass utilization — the use of the whole animal.

“The first problem is we don’t have enough people to process the animals, and number two is they can’t do carcass balance because restaurants are down,” he said. “What’s selling? Freaking hamburger.”

South Korea sees rise in coronavirus positive tests in recovered patients

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea says it’s continuing to see a rise in patients who test positive for the coronavirus for a second time after being diagnosed as recovered. However, the risk of transmissions from such cases so far appears to be low.

Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the country’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday at least 163 people have tested positive again after their initial release from hospitals, accounting for more than 2% of the country’s 7,829 recoveries.

She says the patients on average were 13.5 days removed from their release when they tested positive again, although the longest gap was 35 days.

Jeong says none of the patients were in serious condition although 61 of them were exhibiting mild symptoms. Officials are monitoring about 300 people who contacted the patients but have so far detected no transmissions of the virus.

While health authorities are investigating the causes of such cases, including whether they are linked to virus mutations, they have so far downplayed the possibility that people could get re-infected after making a full recovery.

They say it’s more likely that infections were re-activated after remaining dormant in patients whose bodies hadn’t fully developed immunity after experiencing mild symptoms.

Germany to allow some students to return to school soon

BERLIN — Germany’s official statistical office said Friday that some 2.6 million students will soon return to schools as the country relaxes its pandemic lockdown rules.

Authorities in Germany’s 16 states agreed this week to allow a staggered reopening of schools, with students in their final two years of high school and the final year of primary returning first.

Germany, a country of 83 million people, has so far recorded almost 137,700 confirmed infections of the new coronavirus, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Compared to other countries Germany has had relatively few deaths — 4,052 so far — less than a third the number seen in Britain, which has fewer confirmed cases.

London mayor urges wearing face masks

LONDON — London Mayor Sadiq Khan says wearing face coverings, such as bandannas and scarves, could provide people with another layer of protection against the coronavirus and is lobbying the British government to change its advice.

Khan told BBC radio that the evidence he has seen is that wearing a non-medical facial covering “reduces the chances” of those who have the virus of giving it to somebody else. However, he did concede that it “doesn’t necessarily limit your changes of catching the virus.”

He said changing the advice would be helpful for those in public transport or in shops, where some people may find it difficult to abide by the social distancing guidelines of staying two meters (6 feet) apart.

Khan said it’s important that there’s a “consistent approach” across the country and that’s why he’s lobbying the government and its advisers.

The government’s chief medical adviser, Professor Chris Whitty, said Thursday that the evidence around masks being helpful in preventing the spread of the coronavirus is “weak,” while conceding it was a “live issue.”

German official says coronavirus outbreak now ‘manageable’

BERLIN — Germany’s health minister says the coronavirus outbreak in the country has become “manageable,” with new data showing the rate of new infections has slowed significantly.

Jens Spahn told reporters in Berlin on Friday that the increase in COVID-19 cases isn’t exponential anymore, but linear.

Figures released by the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s disease control center, show that the number of people infected by every person with COVID-19 has fallen to 0.7, from over 1 just a few days ago.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said this week that this so-called reproduction rate was a key indicator the government would take into account when deciding whether to relax the lockdown.

Spahn noted that since April 12, the country has also had more people recovered from COVID-19 than active cases.

Experts say early and widespread testing has helped Germany keep a lid on the outbreak. Spahn said the country has so far conducted 1.7 million tests and is able to carry out 700,000 a week if necessary.


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