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Global cases surpass 3 million, U.S. states begin to reopen

Trump lays out new coronavirus testing ‘blueprint’ as states weigh reopening

President Donald Trump heads to a coronavirus response news conference in the Rose Garden on April 27, 2020.Carlos Barria / Reuters

President Donald Trump on Monday announced a new federal coronavirus testing “blueprint” to aid governors in ramping up capacity as a handful of states begin lifting stay-at-home restrictions.

Trump, who was not originally scheduled to hold a press briefing, billed the plan as part of the administration’s push for a “phased and very safe reopening” of the U.S. over the next few months. He said the plan includes provisions for expanding state testing capacity and establishing widespread monitoring systems as well as contact tracing.

“We are continuing to rapidly expand our capacity and confident that we have enough testing to begin reopening and the reopening process,” Trump said from the White House Rose Garden. “We’re deploying the full power and strength of the federal government to help states cites to help local governments get this horrible plague over with and over with fast.”

Read the full story here. 

Chicago mayor blasts video of ‘reckless and utterly unacceptable’ house party

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot tore into some of her fellow Chicagoans for whooping it up at a “reckless and utterly unacceptable” house party, in violation of statewide shelter-in-place orders.

Video of a crowded, raucous party in northwest Chicago sent Mayor Lightfoot into a Twitter rage on Sunday, as she chastised revelers for putting others at risk.

“I have seen the video which shows what appears to be a house party taking place inside a Chicago residence,” Lightfoot wrote. “What was depicted on the video was reckless and utterly unacceptable.”

Read the full story here. 

Fact check: Trump says giving states a list of labs caused testing to ‘skyrocket’

Trump again boasted he schooled state governors in testing on Monday, claiming that COVID-19 tests surged after his administration gave a list of laboratory facilities to governors.  

“As you know for several weeks my administration has encouraged the governors to leverage unused testing capacity in states — very few understood that we have tremendous capacity. Then one week ago we provided each governor with a list of names addresses and phone numbers of the labs where they could find extra testing capacity in their states,” Trump said Monday night.

We’ve fact checked this before: governors said they needed swaps and supplies, not contact information for labs. But Trump claimed Monday that the list caused a spike in testing.

“Within 48 hours, the number of tests performed across the country began to absolutely skyrocket,” Trump said.

Not so. According to COVID Tracking Project data, the number of tests conducted has risen steadily. There is no sign of a “skyrocket” after Trump sent governors a list on April 20.

Illinois judge blocks extension of governor’s stay-at-home order

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday he is seeking to overturn a ruling by a judge who issued a restraining order against the extension of his stay-at-home order.

Clay County Circuit Court Judge Michael McHaney reportedly granted the restraining order after Republican State Rep. Darren Bailey sued the state, claiming Pritzker violated residents’ civil rights, according to NBC Chicago. Pritzker called Bailey’s decision to go to court “an insult to all Illinoisans.”

“History will remember those who put politics aside to come together to keep people safe,” Prtizker said Monday. “It will also remember those who are so blindly devoted to ideology and the pursuit of personal celebrity they made an enemy of science and reason.” 

Car caravan in Virginia protests lack of coronavirus protections for ICE detainees

Community groups held a caravan protest organized today across Virginia, pressuring elected officials and ICE to release incarcerated and detained people to be able to socially distance at home, citing that it is impossible to socially distance in a prison.

About 50 cars were a part of the protest, with participants decorating their vehicles with signs that called on ICE to release detainees and #FreeThemAll, while honking and chanting. The car caravan made circling stops at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center, an ICE field office and finally Sen. Mark Warner’s state office.

The organizers told NBC News they hoped the protest would draw attention to the fact that there are people in immigration detention and prisons who are still trapped during the pandemic in shared spaces, but additionally to shed light on the lack of testing going on inside of the two main ICE detention centers in Virginia — Caroline and Farmville.

The protest was organized in part by the groups Sanctuary DMV and La ColectiVA, members of whom speak directly with detainees inside of Virginia’s two ICE detention centers.

Barr directs prosecutors to look for state and local stay-home orders that go too far

Attorney General William Barr speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus at the White House on April 1, 2020.Mandel Ngan / AFP – Getty Images file

Attorney General William Barr on Monday directed the nation’s federal prosecutors to watch for restrictions imposed by state and local governments during the coronavirus pandemic that may go too far, violating constitutional rights.

“Many policies that would be unthinkable in regular times have become commonplace in recent weeks, and we do not want to unduly interfere with the important efforts of state and local officials to protect the public,” Barr wrote. “But the Constitution is not suspended in times of crisis. We must therefore be vigilant to ensure its protections are preserved, at the same time that the public is protected.”

Read the full story here.

Slowdowns and lockouts plague second round of small-business loans program

A pedestrian walks past closed storefronts in Central Islip, N.Y., on March 25, 2020.Steve Pfost / Newsday via Getty Images file

The latest round of funding from the Paycheck Protection Program opened up on Monday morning at 10:30 a.m. ET with a new set of rules for distribution of the additional $310 billion in funds — but a familiar-sounding set of problems.

Lockouts, login issues and sluggish systems marred the Small Business Administration’s loan approval process, with each bank unable to submit more than a few hundred applications. One bank was locked out of the system after submitting just 60 loans.

The system is so limited in its current state that it will take nearly a month to get through the entire queue, one banking executive told NBC News.

The issues were “extremely disappointing” but “entirely predictable,” said one banking expert.

Read the full story here.

Dow up 300 as states begin to reopen economies

Investors are happy to see states starting to reopen or think about reopening. The markets started off this week on a high note with the Dow Jones Industrial up 300 points.

Texas to lift stay-at-home order this week, many businesses can reopen Friday

Closed outlet stores in El Paso, Texas, after social distancing measures were put in place to curb the spread of coronavirus on March 21, 2020.Paul Ratje / AFP via Getty Images file

Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Monday he will allow the stay-at-home order in Texas to expire on Thursday, simultaneously saying that many establishments will be allowed to reopen on Friday.

Retail establishments given the green light to resume business on Friday include restaurants, shopping malls and movie theaters. Libraries and museums can also open their doors. But all establishments must limit those inside to 25 percent capacity

Bars, gyms, barber shops and salons didn’t make Friday’s list of business openings and must remain closed.

“I believe we can re-engage our economy while using the same strategies we’ve been using,” Abbott said.

McConnell says Congress will ‘probably’ take up emergency relief for state and local governments

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell leaves Capitol Hill on April 16, 2020.Tom Brenner / Reuters file

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., indicated Monday that Congress will “probably” be taking up a bill to provide emergency relief funding for state and local governments hit hard by the coronavirus.

“There probably will be another state and local funding bill,” McConnell told Fox News Radio host Guy Benson. “We need to make sure that we achieve something that will go beyond just sending out money.”

McConnell said he wants to include provisions in such a bill that prevent the money from going towards fiscal issues that existed prior to the pandemic while also guaranteeing that businesses are protected from lawsuits they could face after states begin reopening.

McConnell’s comments came after he caught heat from governors like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, after he said last week that he was not in favor of passing such funding and instead would prefer states to have the ability to declare bankruptcy if need be. State and local governments are facing a massive budget shortfall as COVID-19 dries up revenue sources.

Banksy’s ‘Girl With a Pierced Eardrum’ gets coronavirus update

Passersby admire Banksy’s mural in Bristol, England, on Monday.Dan Mullan / Getty Images

Banksy’s “Girl with a Pierced Eardrum” has been updated for the coronavirus era with the addition of a blue surgical face mask.

The mural, a take on Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” but with a security alarm replacing the pearl, was painted on a harborside building in the street artist’s home city of Bristol in 2014.

It is not known whether Banksy, whose identity is a closely guarded secret, or somebody else attached the fabric face mask to the painted girl.

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