Reuters US Domestic News Summary

Following is a summary of current US domestic news briefs.

Trump says doesn't accept Levinson dead, but 'not looking great'

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he had not been told that former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared in Iran in 2007, is dead but said things did not look good. "I don't accept that he's dead," Trump told a briefing of his coronavirus task force. "It's not looking great, but I won't accept that he's dead. They haven't told us that he's dead, but a lot of people are thinking that that's the case."

Exclusive: U.S. slashed CDC staff inside China prior to coronavirus outbreak

The Trump administration cut staff by more than two-thirds at a key U.S. public health agency operating inside China, as part of a larger rollback of U.S.-funded health and science experts on the ground there leading up to the coronavirus outbreak, Reuters has learned. Most of the reductions were made at the Beijing office of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and occurred over the past two years, according to public CDC documents viewed by Reuters and interviews with four people familiar with the drawdown.

Exclusive: Pentagon orders halt to all overseas movement for U.S. forces for up to 60 days over coronavirus

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has issued a stop movement order halting all travel and movement abroad for up to 60 days in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus through the ranks of the military, Esper told Reuters on Wednesday. Esper said in an interview that the order applied to all U.S. forces, civilian personnel and families, but noted that there would be some exceptions. One exception would be the drawdown under way in Afghanistan, which Esper said would continue.

New York density control measures apparently working: governor

New York state measures to control the coronavirus appear to working as the rate of hospitalizations has slowed in recent days, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday. Even so, new cases rose by more than 5,000 in the past 24 hours, giving the state more than 30,000 positive cases, roughly 10 times the number in the state with the next highest total, New Jersey, Cuomo said.

Famous chefs, New York restaurants to push landlords for rent breaks during coronavirus crisis

Renowned restaurants, including Cipriani, Smith & Wollensky, The Smith, and Boqueria, as well as owners Stephen Starr and chef Bobby Flay, have formed a new group seeking help from New York City landlords to survive the coronavirus crisis. The group, which is called The Restaurant Network and has not yet been announced publicly, is finalizing a set of terms it hopes small businesses can propose to landlords for rent relief and capital assistance.

U.S. Senate bill to grant airlines bailout to weather coronavirus

The U.S. Senate will vote on Wednesday to give the U.S. aviation industry $58 billion in aid, half in the form of grants to cover some 750,000 employees' paychecks, in a badly needed lifeline for an industry facing the worst travel downturn in history. A draft text for a $2 trillion economic rescue deal seen by Reuters would offer passenger airlines $25 billion in grants and $25 billion in loans, cargo carriers another $8 billion in loans and grants, and contractors like caterers up to $3 billion in grants.

New Orleans emerges as next coronavirus epicenter, threatening rest of South

New Orleans is on track to become the next coronavirus epicenter in the United States, dimming hopes that less densely populated and warmer-climate cities would escape the worst of the pandemic, and that summer months could see it wane. The plight of New Orleans - with the world's highest growth rate in coronavirus cases - also raises fears that the city may become a powerful catalyst in spreading the virus across the south of the country. Authorities have warned the number of cases in New Orleans could overwhelm its hospitals by April 4.

No more tummy tucks: U.S. plastic surgeons idled by coronavirus offer help

Park Avenue plastic surgeon Dr. Douglas Senderoff usually performs tummy tucks and liposuction for well-heeled New Yorkers. But with his practice suspended because of the coronavirus crisis, Senderoff wants to help colleagues on the front lines of fighting the virus in the city's hospitals, where healthcare workers are trying to keep up with a flood of new patients. He also has an office anesthesia machine that can be converted into a ventilator.

Delivery drivers face pandemic without sick pay, insurance, sanitizer

On his delivery route through Orange County, California, Joseph Alvarado made 153 stops one day last week for Amazon.com Inc, touching the inside and outside of his van, more than 225 packages, and dozens of customers’ doors and gates. In a global coronavirus pandemic that has infected about 420,000 people and killed nearly 19,000, delivery drivers like Alvarado have become as essential as first responders, providing food and other basics for millions of people who are isolating themselves under government stay-home directives. But unlike traditional emergency workers, today’s delivery drivers typically have little or no health insurance, sick pay or job security - and many say they lack even the basics needed to stay safe on the job.

New York sees glimmer of progress against coronavirus, New Orleans worsens

New York state, leading the country in coronavirus infections and deaths, has begun showing tentative signs of slowing the spread of the disease, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday, while the health crisis deepened in hard-hit New Orleans and elsewhere. The rate of hospitalizations in New York has slowed in recent days, Cuomo said, with numbers he called "almost too good to be true." But the governor warned that much more work needed to be done.