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U.S. Cases Rise 1.6%; N.Y. Allows Hospital Visits: Virus Update

Bloomberg News
U.S. Cases Rise 1.6%; N.Y. Allows Hospital Visits: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump called the country’s 1.5 million cases a “badge of honor” for U.S. testing efforts. New York City is struggling to meet the standards to reopen and still seeing rising hospital admissions, while Governor Andrew Cuomo hailed progress in the state capital region and Long Island.

The European Union criticized Trump’s threat to permanently freeze U.S. funding to the World Health Organization, saying the virus fight requires global cooperation. Republicans are pushing for WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the U.S., to testify before the House virus oversight subcommittee. China may look to target exports from Australia over its calls for a probe into the origin of Covid-19.

Brazil is now the world’s fastest-growing virus hot spot, accounting for 13% of new cases globally in the past week, while infections in India rose at the fastest pace in Asia to top 100,000. Russia’s prime minister returned to office three weeks after testing positive -- a period that saw total cases in the country almost triple to just under 300,000.

Key Developments:

Virus Tracker: Cases top 4.8 million; deaths exceed 322,000U.S. airlines see signs of life after April travel collapseHK unemployment rate soars; jobless claims rise in BritainCovid patients testing positive after recovery aren’t infectiousModerna to raise as much as $1.3 billion to fund vaccineCrisis brings gaming boom, adding billions to makers’ wealth

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus. See this week’s top stories from QuickTake here.

South Korean Schools Start Reopening (6:33 a.m. HK)

After an unprecedented five-month break, South Korean students are returning to their classrooms as government health officials declared that the country may have avoided a “second wave” of infections.

The schools are reopening in stages, with high school seniors returning first on Wednesday and middle and elementary students slated to go back to school in the following weeks. The third-year high school students are leading the return as they now only have half a year before their annual university entrance exams in early December, education officials said.

UV-Light Used to Kill Virus on N.Y. Transit (5:50 p.m. NY)

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority will use ultraviolet light to help remove Covid-19 from its subways, buses and commuter trains as the technology has shown to eradicate the virus from surfaces. Ridership has fallen dramatically as people work from home and avoid using public transportation. To bring riders back, the agency plans to use innovative disinfecting regimes to help sanitize its fleets and restore ridership confidence.

The MTA will spend about $1 million for 150 double-headed lamps and begin next week zapping the interior of subway cars in the yard. While such technology has been used to clean hospitals and urgent-care facilities, agency officials say it’s the first time ultra-violet light is being used to kill the cornavirus on public transit infrastructure.

Ohio Lifts Social-Distancing Order (4:45 p.m. NY)

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine — praised nationally for his early and stringent social-distancing rules during the coronavirus pandemic — is lifting the rules he imposed on the public.

“Unnecessary” travel, six feet of distancing, and other mandates are all now “strong recommendations,” he said during a Tuesday news conference in Columbus. Orders regarding social distancing in businesses and restaurants will still apply, as well as a ban on “mass gatherings,” which DeWine, a Republican, declined to define. The state’s economy is 95% re-opened.

U.S. Cases Rise 1.6% (4 p.m. NY)

U.S. cases rose 1.6% from the day before to 1.52 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. That was higher than Monday’s growth rate of 1.2%, but in line with the average daily increase of 1.6% over the past week. Deaths rose 1.5% to 91,179.

New York cases rose by 1,474 to 352,845, the second day in a row that new cases totaled less than 1,500, according to the state’s health department.Florida’s caseload grew by 1.1% to 46,944, according to the state’s health department. Deaths climbed 2.8% to 2,052.New Jersey cases increased 0.7%, or by 1,055, to 149,013, a pace that matched the prior seven-day average, according to Governor Phil Murphy.California cases rose 1.7%, below the average 2.37% increase over the previous seven days, to a total of 81,795. There were 32 new deaths, the fewest in more than a week.

Moderna Falls on Stat Report (3:43 p.m. NY)

Moderna Inc. fell as much as 12% after trade publication Stat reported the company withheld key information about its coronavirus vaccine.

Stat cited the lack of a press release from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, its partner on the vaccine, and said Moderna didn’t release information necessary to interpret its data. Stocks surged Monday after Moderna releases positive early results of its vaccine trials.

Dutch Restaurants to Reopen (2:37 p.m. NY)

The Dutch government confirmed that bars and restaurants can start opening for business again next month as the country slowly lifts more restrictions to aid an economy hurting from the coronavirus outbreak.

Bars and restaurants are allowed to reopen beginning at noon on June 1 for up to 30 guests excluding staff as long as they adhere to the 1.5 meter (5-foot) distance rule, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said during a press briefing in The Hague on Tuesday.

Cuomo Lets Albany Region Reopen (1:09 p.m. NY)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the Albany area is ready to begin reopening, and Long Island is making “great progress” toward ending its lockdown, as statewide hospitalizations, intubations and new admissions and deaths for Covid-19 continue to decline. The Capital Region is the seventh of 10 regions that have met the required metrics, Cuomo said Tuesday at a press briefing. Along with Long Island, New York City and the Mid-Hudson region remain on lockdown.

Nassau County on Long Island is now eligible for elective surgery and ambulatory care, Cuomo said. Statewide, 16 hospitals, including some in New York City, are beginning a two-week pilot program to allow increased visitations for family members and loved ones. Visitors are time-limited, must wear personal-protective equipment and agree to symptom and temperature checks.

Ireland’s Cases Are Lowest Since March (1:09 p.m. NY)

Ireland reported its lowest number of new coronavirus cases since March 15, as the country eases its restrictions to control the virus. There were 51 newly diagnosed cases, chief medical officer Tony Holohan said Tuesday. That’s the fourth day in a row fewer than 100 cases have been reported. There were 10 more deaths reported. Ireland now has 24,251 cases, with 1,561 dead.

U.S.-Canada Extend Border Closure (12:40 p.m. NY)

The U.S. and Canada will keep their border shut to non-essential travel for another month as efforts to prevent the spread of Covid-19 are extended.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Donald Trump announced the extension of the border closure to June 21 at separate events in Ottawa and Washington. The agreement to restrict travel between the two countries, which has been in place since March 21, was due to expire this week.

Greece to Lift Island Travel Ban (11:49 a.m NY)

Greece will lift the ban on travel to its islands for non-residents starting May 25, Deputy Citizen Protection Ministry Nikos Hardalias said Tuesday.

The country had already allowed travel to the large islands of Crete and Evvia from Monday. The country is also extending to May 31 the requirement for a two-week quarantine for all visitors arriving in Greece, the minister said.

Florida Reopening Expands (11:12 a.m. NY)

Florida expanded its reopening Monday, allowing restaurants and retailers to operate at 50% capacity and permitting the most populous two counties -- Miami-Dade and Broward -- to emerge from their lockdowns.

Kudlow: Nobody Can Confidently Invest in China (9:52 a.m. NY)

Trump’s economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said nobody can invest confidently in Chinese companies and that the U.S. needs to protect investors from the country’s lack of transparency and accountability.

Speaking on the Fox Business Network on Tuesday, Kudlow pointed to potential lawsuits related to the coronavirus, saying “until that stuff is sorted out, nobody really can invest with confidence in China.”

The Trump administration is increasingly blaming China for the pandemic, while his critics accuse the president of trying to deflect attention from the U.S.’s handling of the outbreak.

EU Cheers WHO’s Approval of Resolution (9:06 a.m. NY)

The European Union hailed the World Health Assembly’s approval of an EU-sponsored resolution on the virus, saying the move highlights the importance of a “collective response” to the pandemic and criticized Trump’s threat to permanently cut U.S. funding for the WHO.

“Strengthening multilateralism is now more important than ever,” EU foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell and Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in a statement after the endorsement by the governing body of the WHO. “The role of equitable access to a vaccine in bringing the pandemic to an end is crucial.”

Separately, the U.K.’s Lancet medical journal said Trump’s claim that the WHO ignored reports of a new virus spreading last year -- including an article in the Lancet -- is wrong and “damaging.”

“The Lancet published no report in December, 2019, referring to a virus or outbreak in Wuhan or anywhere else in China,” the journal said in an emailed statement. “It is essential that any review of the global response is based on a factually accurate account of what took place.”

Southwest Sees Signs of Life in Bookings (8:50 a.m. NY)

Southwest Airlines Co. joined other U.S. carriers noting nascent signs of revival, saying that bookings in May are outpacing cancellations for the first time since March and that travel reservations for next month are showing “modest improvement.”

U.S. Housing Starts Slump by Most on Record (8:34 a.m. NY)

U.S. home construction starts plunged in April by the most in records back to 1959, as the nationwide lockdown hammered the housing market and broader economy.

Residential starts plummeted 30.2% to an 891,000 from a month earlier, the lowest level since February 2015, according to a government report released Tuesday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for a 900,000 pace. Applications to build, a proxy for future construction, dropped 20.8%, the most since July 2008, to a five-year low.

Singapore to Reopen More Businesses (8 a.m. NY)

Singapore will allow more businesses to reopen on June 2 -- increasing the active proportion of the economy to three-quarters. Restrictions will be introduced in three phases provided “community” infection rates remain low during the current lockdown ending June 1 and health workers are protected, officials said at a press briefing Tuesday.

The government will extend more support to businesses and their workers, with a priority on companies that remain closed on June 1, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said. Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat is expected to announce details of a fourth stimulus package next Tuesday in parliament.

EasyJet Says Hackers Accessed Data of 9 Million (7:50 a.m. NY)

EasyJet Plc. said email addresses and travel data of about 9 million customers had been accessed in a “highly sophisticated” cyberattack. Credit card details for 2,208 customers had also been accessed, EasyJet said Tuesday in a statement. It said it’s closed off the unauthorized access and will contact customers over the next few days.

Cyberattacks against businesses and their employees have surged this year as hackers take advantage of the disruption caused by the pandemic.

Contested Jerusalem Holy Site to Reopen (7:40 a.m. NY)

A contested Jerusalem site, holy to both Jews and Muslims, will reopen next week after being closed for almost two months. The Waqf, an Islamic trust that administers the site, said it will open the Al-Aqsa compound immediately after Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan. There are 16,650 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Israel.

Separately, the Health Ministry said it will let wedding halls and other event venues reopen beginning June 14 under certain restrictions. The ministry also temporarily lifted a requirement to wear masks in public areas amid a heat wave, and schoolchildren were given a temporary reprieve from wearing them in classrooms.

Chinese Tycoon Expects Vaccine Trials at Home Soon (7:10 a.m. NY)

Guo Guangchang, the billionaire founder of Fosun Group, expects to soon win approvals for testing a vaccine against the new coronavirus in his home country China. In March, Guo’s Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co. teamed up with German partner BioNTech SE, which has already been conducting human clinical trials of the vaccine in Germany. Early-stage results should be available soon, the tycoon said.

Guo declined to elaborate on when Fosun Pharmaceutical will obtain all the required approvals. The group has also been working with overseas partners in trying to find an effective medicine against the virus, but so far it hasn’t found any, he said.

Walmart Sales Soar on Stockpiling (7:08 a.m. NY)

Walmart Inc. posted strong quarterly sales fueled by coronavirus-related stockpiling, showing how it’s one of the few retailers that’s thriving even amid the unprecedented carnage in the U.S. retail sector. Comparable-store sales, a key retail metric, increased 10% for U.S. Walmart stores in the period, compared with the 8.6% estimate compiled by Consensus Metrix. That’s the fastest pace of growth in almost two decades. Profit in the quarter also beat expectations.

The “significant uncertainty” surrounding the length and intensity of the coronavirus’s impact prompted the retailer to withdraw its full-year guidance, given just three months ago. Still, Walmart said its “business fundamentals are strong.”

Earlier, Home Depot also suspended its full-year forecast citing uncertainty related to the duration of COVID-19 and its impact on the broader economy, while Kohl’s suspended its dividend and stock buyback.

Dimon Says Pandemic Is a Wake-Up Call (6 a.m. NY)

Jamie Dimon said he hopes policy makers use the Covid-19 crisis as a catalyst to rebuild a more-inclusive economy as the pandemic exposes stark inequalities among Americans.

“This crisis must serve as a wake-up call and a call to action for business and government to think, act and invest for the common good and confront the structural obstacles that have inhibited inclusive economic growth for years,” the chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co. wrote in a memo to employees ahead of the bank’s annual shareholder meeting Tuesday.

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