10 things you need to know today: April 4, 2020

Tim O'Donnell


President Trump on Friday announced new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that say Americans should wear protective masks when in public to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Americans should not use medical masks, which should be reserved for health care workers, the CDC says. Instead, when leaving their homes, Americans should wear cloth coverings, which can be homemade. The guidance does not replace social distancing recommendations. Trump repeatedly described the mask guideline as "voluntary," and said he wouldn't be wearing one himself. The recommendation, which also applies to healthy or asymptomatic people, came after a lengthy debate within the Trump administration and among top health experts over whether it should apply to Americans even outside of coronavirus hotspots. [The New York Times, The Week]


The U.S. economy lost 701,000 jobs in March and the unemployment rate rose from 3.5 percent to 4.4 percent amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. This ended a record 113 straight months of gains, as this is the first decline in payrolls since September 2010. Economists have warned the worst is yet to come in the next report, as this data is based on a survey conducted during the week ending on March 14, before many businesses had to close due to the pandemic. According to CNBC, "some two-thirds of the drop came in the hospitality industry, particularly bars and restaurants forced to close during the economic shutdown." The Labor Department reported Thursday that 6.6 million initial unemployment claims were filed last week, the highest weekly number ever recorded. [NBC News, CNBC]


New York on Friday reported 562 new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the state's total death toll to 2,935, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said in his daily briefing. This was the highest single-day increase in deaths so far in the state. The number of new hospitalizations, 1,427, also reached a new high. New York City residents got an emergency alert Friday afternoon calling on any licensed health care workers to aid the overwhelmed hospital system. New York has reported by far the most COVID-19 cases of any state in the country, reaching 102,863 as of Friday. Cuomo also signed an executive order to allow the state to take ventilators and personal protective equipment from hospitals and private sector companies that don't need them and redistribute them to hospitals that do. [CNBC ]


The Supreme Court on Friday canceled the oral arguments scheduled for April due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. After having previously postponed March oral arguments, the court on Friday also did so for the nine cases that would have been argued starting on April 20. "The court will consider rescheduling some cases from the March and April sessions before the end of the term, if circumstances permit in light of public health and safety guidance at that time," public information officer Kathleen Arberg said. "The court will consider a range of scheduling options and other alternatives if arguments cannot be held in the courtroom before the end of the term." Decisions will still come in cases that were already argued. [NBC News, The Washington Post]


Commemorations were held throughout China on Saturday as the country mourned thousands who died in recent months of the novel coronavirus. All forms of entertainment were suspended, flags flew at half-mast throughout most of the country, and three minutes of silence were observed nationwide. President Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders paid silent tribute in front of the national flag in Beijing. Per The Associated Press, the commemorations were particularly poignant in Wuhan, the city where the virus originated. Deaths in Wuhan account for 75 percent of all reported COVID-19 fatalities in China. Wuhan has been under quarantine since Jan. 23, but that will be lifted next week. Much of the rest of the country is cautiously emerging from the epidemic, and life is reportedly gradually returning to normal, although fears of a second outbreak loom. [The Associated Press, Reuters]


President Trump on Friday fired Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who informed Congress about the whistleblower complaint regarding Trump's communications with Ukraine that eventually led to his impeachment. The president said he "no longer" has the "fullest confidence" in Atkinson. The Trump administration has already removed numerous officials from their posts involved with Trump's impeachment proceedings, including Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a former National Security Council official, and former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Others, like former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, resigned. Atkinson won't be immediately removed — the statute for the intelligence community inspector general requires both the House and Senate intelligence committees to be informed of a dismissal with 30 days notice, so there won't be an official change until next month. [The Guardian, CNN]


Former Vice President Joe Biden said Friday he told his last remaining Democratic presidential primary competitor Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) he will begin the process of vetting potential cabinet and vice presidential candidates. He said he's launching a committee to select a running mate sometime in mid-April. Biden has emerged as the overwhelming favorite for the Democratic nomination, but he informed Sanders about the decision because he didn't "want him to think I'm being presumptuous." But Biden said the process takes time, so he wants to get a head start. The former vice president also said he's asked former President Barack Obama for advice on cabinet selections. [NBC News, Politico]


The Coast Guard suspended its search for Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean and her 8-year-old son Gideon on Friday night after the two were reported missing in the Chesapeake Bay near Annapolis, Maryland, a day earlier. The 40-year-old McKean, a public health and human rights lawyer who serves as the executive director of the Georgetown University Global Health Initiative, is the granddaughter of former U.S. Attorney General and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.). McKean's mother, former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, said earlier in the evening the search had turned from a rescue mission into a recovery mission. [The Washington Post, CNN]


Brooke Baldwin, who anchors CNN in the afternoon, announced Friday she has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. In an Instagram post, Baldwin said she's had chills, aches, and a fever and that the symptoms "came on suddenly yesterday." Baldwin also said that "I've been social distancing" and "doing ALL the things we're being told to do," but "still — it got me," although she described herself as "one of the lucky ones" since she doesn't have any underlying medical conditions. In her Instagram post, Baldwin said "I look forward" to getting back on TV "and seeing you real soon." [The Week, CNN]


Bill Withers, the beloved singer behind classic songs including "Lean on Me" and "Lovely Day," has died at 81. Withers' family announced his death from heart complications on Friday morning. Withers won three Grammy Awards for "Ain't No Sunshine," "Just the Two of Us," and "Lean on Me." He last released a new album in 1985. "We are devastated by the loss of our beloved, devoted husband and father," Withers' family said. "A solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large, with his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other ... In this difficult time, we pray his music offers comfort and entertainment as fans hold tight to loved ones." [The Associated Press]

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